Four years ago on Election Day, supporters of Hillary Clinton — and many of Donald Trump — went to the polls confident of the outcome. They knew history was about to be made with the first female president, that she was likely to arrive with a landslide win and that her cartoonish opponent would soon return to his hotels and to reality TV with a good story to tell viewers.

It sounds a lot like 2016 out there. Supporters of Joe Biden are confident history is about to be made with the triumph of the first candidate to win the presidency on his third try for the office, that by far the oldest man ever elected for the first time will arrive with a landslide win and that his cartoonish opponent will return to his hotels and to reality TV with a good story to tell viewers.

Is there another 2016 surprise out there? Pollsters assure those who hang on every survey that whatever went wrong four years ago has been corrected and that their polling couldn't possibly be wrong a second time.

But could it?

Trump voters went to the polls four years ago with nothing to lose. Their candidate, the most criticized and vilified ever to be nominated, was still their choice, warts and all. They couldn't imagine voting for Clinton, and wouldn't. Millions who wouldn't tell pollsters for whom they were voting, or outright lied to them, voted for Trump. Millions who broke at the last minute voted for him.

Pollsters tell us all that is figured in now. They've accounted for the president's potential undercount and don't believe undecided voters breaking at the last minute this year will be deciding on Trump.

But are they right?


In the contested races in today's election, the Chattanooga Free Press editorial page recommends:

* President: Republicans Donald Trump/Mike Pence

* U.S. Senate: Bill Hagerty

* U.S. House: Chuck Fleischmann

* State Senate, District 10: Todd Gardenhire

* State House, District 26: Robin Smith

* State House, District 30: Esther Helton

Most Trump voters understand "the fix" also is in. Whether the election goes their way or Biden's way, they understand that the national media has done everything they can — as they did in 2016 — to make voters believe the race was over, to dampen enthusiasm for Trump, to dispirit the turnout, to convince the president's backers that there is no way they could possibly win this time.

But is there?

The polls say Biden leads nationwide and in the battleground states through which Trump engineered his 2016 victory. But they said that four years ago.

It was about 2:30 in the morning that year when Wisconsin fell into place and gave the president the election through a certain Electoral College majority. Clinton called to concede five minutes later. Unless something unforeseen happens, it will be much later than that — perhaps days later — when a victor can be declared this year because of mail-in ballots.

Judges already have allowed mail ballots — the voting method with the biggest potential for fraud — to be postmarked late on Election Day. So there's no way to know how many of them will be out there and what they might say. If there are enough of them, they will have the ability to tip the balance in close states.

We worry that both sides will declare victory Tuesday night, energizing supporters and kicking in rabble-rousers on both sides to create mayhem. We wish the two candidates — who may not agree on much of anything — could have issued a joint message to their supporters to remain calm and wait for the results, which could take days.

Four years ago, we were no different from the majority of the electorate, believing a Clinton win was inevitable (and, to us, unfortunate). Multiple ledes across the country were written — as ours was — and abandoned: "Hillary Clinton became the first ... ," "Rolling to a landslide victory, Hillary Clinton ... ," "Sweeping to victory in [fill in final result] states, Hillary Clinton ... ."

We believe the real inside information of this election is not with pollsters or pundits or prognosticators but remains with the people. They have the power to decide this election for either major candidate, and we hope they won't allow the intimidation of a biased national media to sway their vote. It's the people's decision to make, not anyone else's.

More than half of registered voters across the country already have made their decision, and we hope that means the election will set various local, state and national records for participation. That's when American is at its best. And that way we can all be confident that, no matter what the results are, the president really is the choice of the people. Whenever, that is, it finally can be determined.

We may not know results on election night

We may not know results on election night
Election night usually ends with results. This year will probably be different due to record-breaking early voting and the deluge of voting by mail-in ballots. Read more on how the Times Free Press plans to handle this and where we get information on election results.