As the crowd waiting to vote in my heavily Democratic neighborhood snaked down the street and around the block, the mood in the liquor store where I drink my coffee was giddy.

Sure, my caffeine klatch was probably a minority in wanting Jimmy Carter to be secretary of state, but they weren’t alone in believing that John Kerry had it in the bag.

In a terrific piece on Tech Central Station, Colin Levey notes ‘the barely suppressed glee early Tuesday as media outlets reported lines around the block at polling places and record turnout in key swing states — as high as 75% of registered voters in Ohio. Kerry supporters were dancing a jig: People don’t usually wait in line for hours to vote for the incumbent, said conventional wisdom. Highly motivated voters are almost always looking for change.’

Of course, it turned out that they were looking for the Bush lever. But long lines = a Kerry victory was a pillar of the conventional wisdom that dominated coverage of the race. Don’t miss Levey’s explanation of why the CW’you know, that the ‘undecideds’ always break for the challenger, that youth would catapult Kerry into the White House, and that the 2004 election would be a hairsplitter–was almost always wrong. 

‘Maybe part of the problem was too many pundits and professionals looking at voters as ‘blocs’ whose hot buttons had to be pushed rather than as thinking men and women who had to be persuaded,’ writes Levey. ‘Bush could at least tell them where he wanted to go, whereas Kerry mainly exhibited a talent for criticism. That came through even though the accepted line that ‘negative campaigning’ suppresses democracy was a canard too.’

Oh, but there was one bit of the CW that turned out to be true. You’ll have to read Mr. Levey’s article to find out what it is.