The Obama team went into the race with a number of assumptions, virtually all of which were ingested whole by the mainstream media. We now see each and every one of them evaporating.
1. Mitt Romney would have problems with his base. President Obama would have liberals sewed up. In fact the conservative base has rallied to Romney, becoming even more enthusiastic after the first debate. When Obama is still struggling to line up women and young voters, Romney is making a play right for the independents, as this ad shows:
2. Obama has a firewall in [fill in the blank with name of state(s) in which he leads ]. Republicans think this is, in a word, “malarkey.” Once the national map shifts, swing states, which by definition are representative of the rest of the country, are going to shift as well. There may be a time lag, and some states for specific demographic or economic reasons may be slightly harder or easier, but the idea that Obama can, say, lose Ohio and build a “firewall” in Iowa is Obama spin.
3. Undecideds will break for the incumbent president. That hasn’t happened in recent elections, and David Plouffe’s puffery notwithstanding, there is no sign the undecideds are breaking for Obama. To the contrary, the debates have pushed undecideds into Romney’s camp. The Obama camp must collectively shudder when they hear former Democratic congressman Joe Sestak say, “I think what it comes down to is promises not kept and promises that might be kept, and that’s why it’s so razor close.”
4. Foreign policy will be an asset for Obama.A senior Romney adviser in Boston told me, “They were hoping that foreign policy would be a strong suit. It’s not. I think it’s a lot of it is a function of Libya, but Libya is a function of his greater Middle East policy.” Romney’s debate appearances so far have helped him meet what the adviser says is the ”commander in chief threshold.” The foreign policy debate on Monday may therefore accelerate Romney’s rise.
5. Romney’s unlikable. Unlikable candidates don’t win. This meme held steady throughout the summer and well into last month. However, Romney refused to play the role of awkward, uncaring plutocrat that Obama had constructed. The president both in the debate and now in his petty attacks is becoming less likable by the minute. In short, Obama isn’t likable enough.
6. Obama will win on social issues. Gay marriage has been a non-factor. Obama is now flogging issues like contraception and abortion, while Romney sounds a more modest tone. (On overturning Roe v. Wade: “I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are. That’s not where America is today. Where America is is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”) Moreover, in such hard economic times these are not a top issue for most voters, and if they are there are as many pro-life and anti-gay marriage voters who are comfortable with Romney.