We are at a turning point in the presidential race. For the first time today Mitt Romney leads in the RealClearPolitics electoral college averaging of polls by a 206-201 margin. In the Gallup 7-day tracking poll Romney went ahead by 7 points, suggesting that the vice presidential debate (Oct. 11) was, if anything, a positive for the GOP ticket. There is so far nothing to show that the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 slowed Romney down.

On the state level he is ahead in Florida, North Carolina and a number of Virginia and Colorado polls. Obama’s big leads in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Minnesota are or have evaporated.

The race is not by any means over. There is another debate on Monday, and one can bet the Democrats will pull out all the stops. And yet, the momentum is hard to ignore.

More to the point, the Obama team has descended into farce. Its minions are hyping a story that Tagg Romney joked about wanting to “take a swing” at the president when he called his dad a liar. (In case anyone missed the context, he added, “But you know you can’t do that because, well first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because this is the nature of the process, they’re going to do everything they can do to try to make my dad into someone he’s not. We signed up for it. We’ve gotta kinda sit there and take our punches and then send them right back the other way.”)

How anyone would take this seriously as an “issue,” is beyond me. But that is no more inane than the other topics of conversation. Now, less than three weeks until the election with early balloting well under way, the Obama team is yelping about “women in binders,” Tagg, Big Bird, and abortion. If this seems desperate or even comical it is.

Implicitly recognizing that its negative ads haven’t wounded Obama, news reports suggest that President Obama is pulling these from the air. (Perhaps his tone in the last debate was then too “hot” and testy.)

Meanwhile, both on the right and left there is a growing recognition that Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have been able to capture , if you will, the hope-and-change message for the campaign. Rich Lowry writes, “ The only real choice that the Obama campaign has offered is one between believing Romney is a heartless right-wing extremist and believing Romney is a soulless opportunist. This has allowed Romney, pricelessly, free running to present himself as the man with the plan.” Liberals don’t disagree. Mark Halperin of Time voices the obvious problem for Obama:

All of this puts a premium on the last of the debates, a final bar perhaps for Romney to climb over. He needn’t score a knockout at this stage in the game. Appearing presidential and sober (cut out arguing about the rules, be forceful but respectful of the president) Romney can (for anyone still undecided) put remaining concerns to rest that he is a plausible commander in chief.

Obama has several problems, not the least of which is panic and depression among his base. Romney’s trial in this regard came earlier and was resolved by tightening his campaign, by cutting down on errors and ultimately by a stunning debate performance. For Obama a slide this late in the race is especially debilitating, especially since he is so dependent on less regular voters of the type who were swept up in the excitement of 2008. As for the debate, he has to hope enough voters tune in for a usually less widely watched foreign policy debate and that something dramatic occurs. The second debate suggests that even a non-catatonic Obama isn’t enough to knock Romney off stride.

In short, Romney’s fate is in his own hands. Have a solid final debate. Work on turning out the vote. Stay positive. If he does these things, in all likelihood he will win the presidency.