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March 6, 2016

I recall meeting former White House political director, and recent Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour for lunch in the summer of 1991 and the conversation quickly turned to the 1992 presidential election.

President George H.W. Bush’s approval ratings stood at nearly 90% in the aftermath of the popular and successful Gulf War. I commented that President Bush should be re-elected fairly easily. “Not so fast,” Haley retorted, predicting the possibility of unforeseen bumps in the road.

President Bush went on to run a very mediocre campaign and squandered the popularity he had accumulated from the Gulf War, losing to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in a three-man race that included Independent candidate Ross Perot.

What Haley knew was that poll numbers don’t always mean much. Elections are won by individual votes cast on Election Day – a single Tuesday in November.

While it is impossible to say how things will go this year, an avalanche of daily tracking polls indicates it will be a great year for a non-establishment candidate. Yet elections always come down to individual voters – neighbors who live on average streets across the country – and who will decide things on that given "Tuesday" in November.

There’s also a growing trend among voters to wait until the last day to decide for whom they will vote. In this Internet, cable news, Facebook, and Tweeter age, issues change all the time and voters like the idea of making their decision late, many on Election Day itself.

Stu Spencer, chief architect/campaign manager to former President Ronald Reagan, used to say he could “feel” a winning campaign. He was not a believer in focus groups as such; he instinctively knew how things were going and whether the campaign was on the right track.

Voting is a unique process and individual voters go about casting ballots differently. It’s quiet in a voting booth and voters process their thoughts carefully when making a decision about President. This year promises to be no different.

Newspapers were once an effective way to communicate to voters. Here is one of the great political newspaper ads.  It ran in The New York Times on behalf of the Nixon for President Campaign during the final week of the 1968 general election.

It was run under a single-word headline, “Tuesday," and it read as follows:

“It will be quiet on Tuesday, No speeches. No motorcades. No paid announcement. It’s a very special day, just for grown-ups. America votes Tuesday.

"On Tuesday, the shouting and the begging and the threatening and the heckling will be silenced. It’s very quiet in a voting booth.

"And nobody’s going to help you make up your mind. So, just for that instant, you’ll know what the man you’re voting for will do a thousand times a day for the next four years.

"Now it’s your turn”.