News orgs have been too credulous in reporting on Mitt Romney’s supposedly continuing “surge.” The Romney campaign has carefully orchestrated the appearance of “momentum,” and even though tracking polls suggest the race has stabilized, the “momentum” storyline persists.
But little by little, a new storyline is taking hold: Whatever is happening on the national level, the fact remains that Romney faces a more daunting climb in the electoral math than Obama does — meaning the President is currently leading.
Charlie Cook, a nonpartisan analyst who helps shape conventional Beltway wisdom, pointed out yesterday that the math is harder for Romney. And today, Mike Allen’s Playbook led with the same idea:
As an antidote to the (perhaps) irrational Republican exuberance that seems to have seized D.C., we pause for the following public-service announcement. To be President, you have to win states, not debates. And Mitt Romney has a problem. Despite a great debate and what The Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr. on Sunday called a polling “surge,” Romney has not put away a single one of the must-have states. President Obama remains the favorite because he only needs to win a couple of the toss-ups. Mitt needs to win most of them. A cold shower for the GOP: Most polling shows Romney trailing in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa — by MORE than Obama trails in North Carolina....
Barack Obama had the math. And math, not momentum, gets you the big house, the bulletproof car, the cool plane.
To make this as clear as possible, I am not predicting an Obama victory, and have not done so in the past. This race is a dead heat, and I’ve said for a long time now that Romney can still win, even back when Obama held a comfortable lead.
That said, the polling averages tell a very clear story right now: Obama is slightly ahead in the electoral college. All of the four major national averages — Real Clear Politics, Pollster.com, TPM, and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight — show Obama with small leads in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Iowa (which is tighter). That would put Obama well past 270. He has more room for error right now than Romney does.
No one is denying that Romney enjoyed a big tightening that has put him at least within striking distance of victory. But right now, Obama is still leading — where it counts. Could this change? Of course. Again, Romney could still win. But Obama’s small edge in the electoral college defines the state of play with less than two weeks left.
The case that Romney is on track to victory rests heavily on the argument that he retains momentum and that undecided voters are breaking his way. It’s unclear what the evidence is for this — if anything, the race in those states has now become remarkably stable, despite that earlier tightening — but let’s accept it for the sake of argument. Even if Romney does retain some momentum, my metric for judging the race remains simple: That momentum will only become genuinely significant if Romney starts showing a tie or leads in the consensus of the polling averages of the key states where Obama now leads.
I would also add one thing to what Allen said above about North Carolina: Virginia also bears watching. The polling averages show a tighter race in Virginia than in Ohio. Yet there’s virtually no discussion of the fact that Romney has not taken Virginia off the board. Why?
* Poll finds Obama still ahead in Ohio: A new Survey USA poll finds Obama still ahead in this must-win state for Mitt Romney by 47-44. The key is that there’s been no real movement here; both are up two points since last week, when Obama led by an identical three points.
In today’s poll, Obama leads 58-39 among early voters, with Romney holding a slight edge among those who haven’t voted yet, 46-44. As always, keep an eye on the averages: The RCP average in Ohio finds Obama leading by nearly two points.
* Obama replicating 2008 coalition in Ohio? A good point from the Fix crew: Obama is now very close to enjoying the same margins among African Americans and young voters in Ohio that he did in 2008. The big question remains whether Romney’s pedigree and profile — and the Obama team’s relentless assault on his opposition to the auto bailout — will prevent him from running up the numbers he needs among blue collar whites.
* Even Florida is still in play: Yes, Florida is a state where Romney clearly does have momentum. But as Scott Conroy notes, even Romney’s supporters say Romney still has to fight to win it. And this:
Florida is a must-win state for him. If he were to fall short, he would have to sweep the remaining eight battlegrounds in order to win the presidency -- a scenario that not even his rosiest spinmeister would deem credible. For Obama, on the other hand, Florida is a prime opportunity to seal the deal rather than a necessity for political survival.
* Tight battle for control of Senate: Caitlin Huey-Burns has a good overview of the latest state of play in the battle for the Senate: The short version is that Republicans may not take back the majority, partly because the party didn’t intervene in primaries, resulting in some less than stellar candidates. One interesting tidbit: GOPers seem to have given up on Todd Akin, seeing Missouri as lost.
As noted here the other day, the other side of this story is that the Dem establishment and the left have been surprisingly united: Party strategists view their batch of contenders this year as excellent candidates, even as the left and labor see them as solid progressives.
* Presidential race may decide Senate control: Another good overview from Josh Kraushaar, who notes that the presidential race will have a big impact on Senate races in Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Ohio, upon which control of the Senate may hinge. Also interesting: If Romney wins, Republicans need to net three seats to take control; if Obama wins, they need four.
* Elizabeth Warren leading in poll: A new WBUR poll finds Elizabeth Warren ahead of Scott Brown by six points, 50-44, among likely Massachusetts voters, when leaners are factored in. Her lead is fueled by a 13 point edge among women; Warren has made pay equity and women’s health, and the hidebound GOP stances on them, a central topic in this race.
The WBUR poll is in line with the RCP average, which puts Warren ahead by 4.7 points.
* Keep an eye on early voting in Nevada: Nate Cohn explains the importance of it:
Nevada is a state where the early voting numbers matter, since Romney’s chances depend, at least in part, on a poor Democratic turnout. But the early vote numbers suggest he’ll need to win plenty of Democrats, since they’re not staying home. More than 20 percent of Nevada’s eventual electorate has probably already cast ballots and the Obama campaign is running up the score in Las Vegas’ Clark County, home to 70 percent of the state’s population. Democrats now lead by 23,000 votes in Clark County, more than one-fifth of their 90,000 vote registration lead.
Obama adviser Jim Messina noted yesterday that early voting also bodes very well for Obama’s chances Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio.
* And Obama camp says 2012 electorate will be diverse: These factoides, from the Messina conference call yesterday, deserve more attention (from the Obama campaign’s transcript):
“Minority voting is going to reach an all-time high this year, projected as high as 28% of all voters in the ‘12 Election. Most new registrants over the past three months are under 30, and nearly all — four in five — are youth, women, African American or Latino. You know, these are all groups that strongly support the President’s re-election. Voter registration has increased most among Latinos and African Americans, and two-thirds of those who have already voted are women, youth, African Americans or Latinos.”