It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

There is a growing body of opinion that George W. Bush has become, if not a cinch, the odds-on to win the presidency. This is especially true among columnists and some others who write about politics.

Few things bring more smiles to the faces of Bush and his tight inner circle. Naturally, they do what they can to foster the idea that a Bush presidency is an inevitability.

But beyond that, there are, indeed, some signs that Bush has managed his post-primary campaign - the period since early March - much better than Gore and that this has had an impact on the electorate.

Examples? Well, Bush has effected a carefully calibrated schedule of releasing substantial policy positions, one at time. His ideas on Social Security, for instance. And his thoughts about nuclear missile offense and defense.

This has helped to nourish the image of a sure-footed, thoughtful candidate.

Gore, on the other hand, has often struck people, most importantly some of the journalists who cover him regularly, as a candidate running around in circles with his shirttail on fire.

This may be unfair, but that's the way he's come across to some. And it may be true that not as many people view him that way as some journalists and nearly all of his detractors would have you believe.

But, still, anyway you cut it Bush has come through the past two to three months looking more organized, more thoughtful and more confident than Gore to enough people to have it matter.

As much as anything can matter this early in the campaign. And that's a point to bear in mind. Folks, it IS still early, very early. And it's easy to overestimate the importance of what the campaign looks like at this stage compared with what the reality figures to be after this summer's conventions and after Labor Day when the game begins its decisive phase.

So mark it: If the election were held today, Bush might very well win. But it isn't being held now. And anybody who thinks Gore is no longer capable of winning either hasn't been around many presidential races or isn't being objective - or both.

Gore still has an excellent chance. Maybe not quite as good as Bush's at this stage. But then again, maybe as good or even better, despite present appearances.