The Accounting: Last week I was "on assignment." More precisely, my day job overcame my avocation.

For those of you who like to keep track of what I do, here are the highlights of the week that was:

Wednesday: In my capacity as student government advisor, I assisted in hosting a Civil Rights lecture in celebration of Black History Month. Baylor's James SoRelle brought a bit of gender equity to the study of the CRM with "Where Have All the Women Gone? Re-imaging the Civil Rights Movement, 1865-1965."

FYI: We are also hosting an African American Literature colloquium this week.

Thursday: I accompanied a dozen student leaders to Austin, where we met with our elected state representatives (Senator Kip Averett & Representatives Jim Dunnam and Charles "Doc" Anderson).

Friday: I once again made the 100-mile jaunt down I-35 to Austin, this time in the company of colleagues for the annual convention of Texas community college teachers. On that assignment, I was able to spend an immensely enjoyable day of conversation and conviviality with friends dedicated to perpetuating the American experiment.

We enjoyed a stimulating and intimate lunch with an emerging superstar in American scholarship: H.W. Brands.

Agenda: I intend to offer some thoughts on all of these events at some point.

But First. We also attended a discussion of the coming 2008 presidential race offered by Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. I like Patterson. I heard him speak a few years ago at another convention. He is thoughtful and fair-minded. He has a great line: "the forecasting models indicate (insert prediction here) but I wouldn't bet my house on it." It is an important caveat. He sees this as a Democratic Party year, and I agree with him, but there is a reason we show up for the game even when the odds are prohibitive. On any given Sunday....

Why are the Democrats ahead? Patterson noted that 1952 and 1968 were historical parallels. Stuck in unpopular wars, the parties of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson suffered the consequences of presidential unpopularity. Looking at the job approval ratings of the President, the party of Bush groans with dread. The Democrats are currently running an 18-point lead in the generic canvass. There are potential pitfalls for the Dems (looking "anti-American" for one), but right now they have the better hand to play.

Even as there are many strongly persuasive indicators on general elections, the dynamics of the primaries make predictions on party nominations uncertain. Having said that, the nominations are now decided during the "invisible primary." That is, in the era of front-loading, the campaign prior to the first caucus and first primary generally determines the nominee. In a nutshell, this time next year, in all likelihood, we will know our two major party nominees.

Some things to watch:

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