Some newspaper editors are wringing their hands over Garry Trudeau's decision to pen several Doonesbury strips for next week depicting Barack Obama as the winner of the election.
But for the politically pugnacious cartoonist, banking on an Obama win a week in advance had zero downside.
"I never considered NOT writing about the election, but to avoid lameness, I had to predicate it on an outcome," Trudeau wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times.
"If Obama wins, I'm in the flow and commenting on a genuine phenomenon. If I'm wrong, there'll be such a global uproar that a goofy call in a comic strip isn't going to be much noticed."
But Trudeau may be overly modest. Already, the Chicago Tribune has decided to take the Nov. 5 strip off its regular comics pages, which will be printed before the election results are known.
Some newspapers worry that if Sen. John McCain wins, they'll be stuck with at least four strips that read like an ongoing "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline — touting a victory that didn't happen and ticking off some readers.
"If Obama is elected president in (Doonesbury's) world," said Tim Bannon, editor of the Chicago Tribune's daily features section, "will he stay president for the next four years?"
Possibly, according to Trudeau, who said it would be a "great idea" to keep Obama president in Doonesbury even if he loses.
At the St. Petersburg Times, features editor Mike Wilson said the newspaper will run Trudeau's strips as he wrote them.
"If he's right, the people who like him still like him, and the people who hate him still hate him," Wilson wrote in an e-mail. "If he's wrong, everybody gets a 'Dewey Defeats Truman' keepsake, and the people who hate him are happier than ever. It's a no-lose situation."
Here are Trudeau's responses to questions from the Times:
What inspired you to write this strip, knowing you might be wrong?
Fivethirtyeight.com, which is probably the most respected of the poll analysts, has the likelihood of a McCain victory at 3.7 percent. That was risk assessment I could live with.
What do you think of editors who are deciding not to run the strip?
I think more of them. It means they're reading their own comics.
What would it say about American voters if you are wrong?
Obama would graciously say that the voters have spoken. Someone like Bill Maher would call them idiots. I'd split the difference and say the idiots have spoken.
Eric Deggans can be reached at deggans@sptimes or (727) 893-8521.