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Will the polls, and the vibe, finally reflect reality?

February 12, 2008 |  6:40 am

We've been here before. The pending question is: Will we be fooled again?

The story line is in place for today's "Potomac primaries" in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., a narrative determined by other recent contests, the body language from each of the Democratic presidential campaigns and -- most influential -- the polls. Based on all of this, it should be another shining Barack Obama moment.

But in his mind, and those of his aides, there must linger a memory of New Hampshire.

Boosted by his win in the season's inaugural contest, the Iowa caucuses, the question on the day of the Granite State primary was by how much -- not if -- he would win that vote. Every final poll showed him ahead. Hillary Clinton did not even have a victory speech ready. But that night, of course, she got to make one.

The lay of the electoral land wasn't quite as clearcut ...

when last week's Super Tuesday dawned. Still, there was hope in the Obama camp -- buoyed by the high-profile Kennedy clan endorsements he had received -- that he could steal a win from Clinton in California, the day's big prize. At least one poll predicted as such.

The night ended OK for Obama; he fought Clinton pretty much to a draw in contests across the nation. But there was no California win for him; indeed, his showing in the state left something to be desired for him and his partisans.

So now comes another chance for Obama to put some real daylight between himself and Clinton.

The polls are arrayed with rare unanimity, showing him with substantial leads in Maryland and in Virginia (a big Obama victory in D.C. is a foregone conclusion). Team Clinton, meanwhile, is feeling the heat, trying to focus the attention of supporters on battles that are three weeks away.

In a campaign season that has defied one forecast after another, perhaps tonight the results finally will match the expectations. If not, there are any number of pollsters, in particular, who should start considering another line of work.

-- Don Frederick

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