In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama challenged and beat Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on turf that had been on the GOP side of the ledger during the Bush years — Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Nevada, Virginia and even North Carolina.

This time, the Obama team exuded confidence that the president would again carry North Carolina and compete in Arizona. He now trails in both states, and it is hard to find a Democratic strategist who honestly thinks he will win either state.

Meanwhile, it is Mitt Romney who is playing on his opponent’s side of the field. Josh Kraushaar of National Journal reports: “With the economy struggling to pick up steam, three must-win ‘blue-wall’ states are looking increasingly winnable for the Romney campaign: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Both election results (from the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall) and reputable polling show that all three states are shaping up to be highly competitive, and that both campaigns will be devoting significant resources there.” (He could also add Iowa to the list. The polls are knotted up there as well.)

Kraushaar also reports: “Obama’s team expected that the historic Democratic tilt of [Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin] would keep them in its column. But the slow-growing economy is putting them squarely in play, one of the biggest reasons why Obama’s reelection now looks in jeopardy.”

To put this in perspective: Romney can get to 272 without Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and without Colorado, New Hampshire or Iowa, provided he wins the slam-dunk states (e.g., Texas) and can take back Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Nevada. With Midwest states in play, he has many more permutations. For example, he could lose Virginia’s 13 electoral votes or North Carolina’s 15 but still get more than 270 with Michigan’s 16 electoral votes or a combination of Wisconsin (10) and New Hampshire (4).

Gosh, it seems like just yesterday that conventional wisdom was telling us Romney had a “narrow path” to the White House. Lots can and will change before November. But it is beginning to look like Obama needs an economic game-changer to keep his job.