First of all, we need to constantly be reminded that this is NOT an election where the popular vote is the deciding factor. All those national polls are interesting and instructive in their own way. On that front, may I remind everyone that Gallup continues their daily tracking poll and as of yesterday its Obama 50% and Romney 43%. Since just two weeks ago they had Romney up by 2 and that was big news of a Romney surge, are we now hearing about a huge shift towards Obama in the election? Not so much.
But the real news is in the electoral college. The best take on that I've found is actually at Huffington Post (I know what a mess that site is, but go take a look. This one is instructive.) They have President Obama at 269 electoral votes - one shy of the 270 needed to win. That's because Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are now "leaning Obama" with polling averages of a 4-5% lead. That leaves 8 states in the "toss up" category (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada) totaling 99 electoral votes in all. Obama would only need to win one of those states whereas Romney would have to sweep them all AND add either Michigan, Ohio or Pennsylvania to win.
In those toss up states, Romney has a small lead in Iowa and Missouri, Obama leads in North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, with Arizona basically tied. What that means is that if the race were held today, Obama would score a decisive win. What Romney needs is a game-changer.
I think that's where Romney as the Republican nominee comes into play. There is no way he's going to pull off a game changer based on his personality or campaigning style. No way!
It would take some outside source and/or event to even put his candidacy into play at this point. So let's take a look at what some of the possibilities are. The important point to note here is that all of these things could swing the tenor of the campaign either way.
- Of course there's the conventional wisdom about "it's the economy, stupid." But even if the economy worsens, Romney will have to make the case that it was Obama's fault and he has better ideas about how to fix it.
- There is the battle of Super PAC media buys vs. the ground game to keep an eye on. I personally don't think the media buys will cut it. So far the Obama campaign is having as much impact with media as the Republican Super PACs. And we all know from 2008 what a difference a real political ground game can be.
- In just 2 months the Supreme Court is going to announce their decision on health care reform. That will change the debate in this campaign no matter what they decide.
- An unpredictable global or domestic event could overtake the conversation. The possibilities are endless here, but think about things from the recent past like the Arab Spring or the Gulf Oil Spill.
- There's Romney's relationship to Republicans in Congress to keep an eye on. He's already faced some challenges with that when it came to things like student loans and the Violence Against Women Act. Upcoming could be tangles over whether or not to abide by the deal struck in last summer's debt ceiling deal. If that one heats up - where will Romney stand?