http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000087239639044376880457803...Then came more hard punches. On Oct. 13, Gallup put the race nationally at Carter 44%, Reagan 40%. The bottom appeared to fall out two weeks later when a new national Gallup poll had Carter 47%, Reagan 39%. That produced more than a few empty chairs in phone banks across Texas. But most volunteers, grim and stoic, hung on, determined to stay until the bitter end. Only Election Day was not so bitter. Reagan carried all 10 of the Times' battleground states and defeated Mr. Carter by nearly 10 points. Every election is different and this year won't replicate 1980. But context might be helpful to edgy supporters of Mitt Romney.In the past 30 days, there were 91 national polls (including each Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking survey). Mr. Obama was at or above the magic number of 50% in just 20. His average was 47.9%. Mr. Romney's was 45.5%.There were 40 national polls over the same period in 2004. President George W. Bush was 50% or higher in 18. His average was 49%; Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was at 43.8%. An Oct. 4, 2004, story in the New York Times declared the Bush/Kerry race "a dead heat" and asked "whether Mr. Bush can regain the advantage."Mr. Bush was hitting the vital 50% mark in almost half the polls (unlike Mr. Obama) and had a lead over Mr. Kerry twice as large as the one Mr. Obama now holds over Mr. Romney. So why was the 2004 race "a dead heat" while many commentators today say Mr. Obama is the clear favorite? The reality is that 2012 is a horse race and will remain so. An incumbent below 50% is in grave danger. On Election Day he'll usually receive less than his final poll number. That's because his detractors are more likely to turn out, and undecideds are more resistant to voting for him.------------------------------------------------------This certainly will be interesting.