Are we there yet?

What has seemed like an interminably long presidential election cycle is just a few short weeks from being over. Voters—who likely feel like the proverbial kids in the back seat of the family car asking "Are we there yet?"—will reach their destination Nov. 4. What that destination means for the U.S. and the roofing industry depends heavily on whether voters elect Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D) or Arizona Sen. John McCain (R).

By all conventional measures, this should be the Democrats' year to capture the White House.

Democrats won the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in 2006 with an 18-point edge in the exit polls, and despite their minimal performance during this Congress, generic ballot tests since then (in which pollsters ask respondents which party they would vote for absent specific candidate names) have continued to give Democrats the edge.

Compounding the Republicans' problems is President Bush's consistently low approval ratings. And rarely has voter satisfaction with the country's direction been so low, with those believing the U.S. is on the "right track" polling only in the midteens. The last two times this measure was so low—in 1980 and 1992—the White House changed parties.

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