An excellent Election Watch panel featuring Norman Ornstein, Karlyn Bowman and others at the American Enterprise Institute Thursday morning left one with the distinct feeling that it’s all over but the voting. Michael Barone, who knows more about US voting patterns than any other living person, painted a bleak picture of a McCain campaign that just wasn’t up to taking advantage even of the few bits of good news that came its way:

“Barone said that Republicans have lost any advantages they may have enjoyed during this cycle, including the success of the surge in Iraq and $4-per-gallon gasoline. The continuing financial crisis has wounded McCain and the GOP. According to Barone, the announcement of the financial rescue package on September 18-19 coincided with Obama’s overtaking of McCain in polling averages. McCain may have harmed his own campaign with behavior that the voters consider ‘impulsive,’ such as suspending his own campaign or threatening to boycott the first presidential debate.”

So the question is: What kind of change is coming? Richard A. Epstein, a Forbes columnist who knows Senator Obama (they have both taught law at the Univeristy of Chicago), is also wondering what Obama’s change will bring:

“The short answer is that nobody knows. Virtually everyone who knows him recognizes that he plays his cards close to the vest, so that you can make your case to him without knowing whether it has registered. At this point, my fear is that the change in office will not lead to a change in his liberal voting record, as reinforced by a hyperactive Democratic platform. My great fear is that a landslide victory will give him solid majorities in both Houses of Congress, so that no stalling tactics by Republicans can slow down his legislative victory procession. At that point his innate pragmatism will line up with his strong left-of-center beliefs on issues that have thus far been muted during the campaign.”