Fifth, to identify our next president, we would have to understand who has the edge, compared with '08, in early and absentee voting.
GOP sources tell me that in Ohio, for example, Republicans have increased their early turnout by more than 100,000 from 2008 while Democrat turnout is down 150,000. That is a 250,000-vote swing in a state Obama only won by 260,000 votes at the apogee of his popularity. This pattern, I'm informed, holds in other swing states.
Sixth, we have to examine whether the Obama campaign can compensate for dimming passion among its supporters with a more energetic turn-out-the-vote machine on Election Day.
It's fair to admit that Team Obama has had a four-year head start, nearly endless resources and a brilliant team of social media wizards to build an unmatched get-out-the-vote operation. But Obama has disappointed even his own supporters. The thrill of his historic political accomplishment is gone. Without passion to fuel the machine, a turnout engine is just a collection of bolts.
My experience is that the Beatles were right: Money can't buy you love, or turnout.
Seventh, to identify our next president, we have to understand how publicly embarrassing it is to be a Republican these days.
Hollywood, the music industry, the news media, the fashion industry, the intellectual elite and the news media all fawn over Obama. To identify yourself as a Republican Romney voter, however, is to admit that you are culturally backward. In effect, survey questioners are asking Obama voters if they self-identify as cool. They are asking Romney voters if they would publicly admit to wearing socks with sandals.
Too often, Republicans dare not speak their name, because they know the cool kids won't invite them to play.
This phenomenon, the reticent Republican factor, like the shy Tory factor found in British polls in the '90s, could easily account for a 4% to 5% unexpected pro-Romney bump on Election Day.
Late polls in 1980 gave Ronald Reagan only a 2% to 3% lead over Jimmy Carter. Reagan ended up winning by nearly 10%. For the same reason, I would expect this campaign's final public opinion polls and exit polls this Tuesday to underreport the Republican vote by a handful of points.
Add it all up, and this is a close call. Perhaps it is best made both with my heart and my head.
Four years ago, Obama's campaign claimed a unique energy. Electing the first black president of the United States was a singular moment of national pride. Now the Obama campaign pretends the opposite: They tell us that history-making event was ordinary. Team Obama and many others model their turnout predictions and surveys upon 2008, overloading them with Democrats. They would have us think that the electoral cosmos has been realigned in a stable and permanent way.
In the end, I cannot embrace as common the rarest of political astronomies. I do not believe Obama's comet comes around every day.
That leaves Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States.