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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 10/09/2012

Why Romney is winning

[Sandusky sentencing this morning. Follow @wpjenna on Twitter — my colleague Jenna Johnson is in the courtroom.You may have seen that Sandusky has declared his innocence again. It sounds to me like he has so compartmentalized his actions that he’s persuaded himself that he didn’t really do those things. But he did. I discussed this in my blog post when returning from the trial.]

[Most fascinating science story in the paper today is about RGIII and his concussion. They have these elaborate neurological tests that I am sure I would fail 9 days out of 10 (“Reaction time is measured to a hundredth of a second. The test, which takes approximately 20 minutes, measures aspects of cognitive functioning that include attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, non-verbal problem-solving and reaction time”). In fact I think they should test Obama before his next debate. You know Al Gore said Obama may have suffered from the high altitude during last week’s debate — you’re a mile high at Denver, plus Obama keeps trying to be above-it-all and take the “view from 30,000 feet,” so it’s amazing he didn’t pass out entirely.]

[In happier sporting news, let us be thankful that the Nats are coming home with a split in the first two games after being drubbed every which way in Game 2 and needing minor miracles to win Game 1. That said, it’s truly outrageous that the best team in baseball gets a 1 p.m. slot and no national TV except something called the MLB Network. I don’t think I got that. I may simply boycott watching the game.] [That’ll show ‘em.]

You may recall that some days ago I explained why Romney is losing, and noted that, in interviews in battleground states, I’d almost never met anyone who said they really, really liked the guy. Most of the pro-Romney energy was really anti-Obama fervor. Romney was acceptable but, for many GOP voters, not the ideal candidate. So I posted that item, flew to Wisconsin, went to a Polish restaurant and the very first person I interviewed said of Romney, “I think he’s a genius.” The point being that this is not an exact science.

That goes for polling, too. The latest news is that Obama did so badly in the debate that he is suddenly losing the election and is in the midst of a historic collapse. This is, we are told, the worst thing since the Joe Pisarcik fumble.

No one more articulately promulgates this theory than Andrew Sullivan:

“I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week - throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement?”

In my interviews I haven’t seen a lot of volatility out there. One woman — exactly one, total — told me that she and her husband were reconsidering their vote after watching the debate. They had been leaning Obama. They were now undecided, she said. Everyone else I talked to said the debate wouldn’t change their vote.

So how to account for the huge swing toward Romney reported by the Pew poll yesterday? One possibility is that it’s an outlier. There’s some discussion about whether it oversampled Republicans (Jon Cohen says that party ID can surge right along with candidate preference). But the Gallup Poll also gave Romney good news, showing him tied nationally with Obama. So if it’s an outlier it ain’t much of one, it seems. [Update: For a smart perspective on the latest polls, see the new Nate Silver piece.]

This could also be a bounce that, like other bounces, goes away after a week or so. Or it could be that Romney continues to see improvements in his poll numbers, and in a week or so the whole electoral map will be upside down, with Romney in clear command. Here’s an idea: Let’s wait and see.

What’s certain is that with his debate performance Romney managed in a single night to shore up enthusiasm in his base, and persuade a number of ”persuadables” that he’s not Thurston Howell Romney III. He was losing, as I said, because you don’t become president of the United States simply by saying the other guy is a doofus. You have to make people like you. This is a country where a lot of people vote not for the party or for the policy but for the person. Likeability matters a lot.

I’ll say it again: It’s going to be close, and probably come down to the usual suspects, Ohio and Florida. If you look at the realclearpolitics electoral map you can see all the different ways this might play out. Right now the map shows Obama with 251 electoral votes from strong, likely or leaning states, and Romney with 181. Another 106 electoral votes are in states labeled tossups. So let’s give all those tossup states to Romney, except Ohio, where Obama has been leading.

I get 269 to 269.

Remind me what happens then?

By  |  10:32 AM ET, 10/09/2012

 
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