The Romney camp cannot be filling confident. The election is merely five weeks away and President Obama appears to be pulling away from his challenger. A Real Clear Politics aggregate of polls shows Obama leading national by a 4.1% margin: 48.7% to Romney’s 44.6%.
RCP gives Obama 265 Electoral College votes next to Romney’s 191. 270 are needed to win and in the states listed up for grabs (Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire) every recent poll has Obama leading in every state except North Carolina, and often by significant margins. According to Public Policy Polling, Obama leads in Iowa by 7% (51% to Romney’s 44%) and his margin has only increasing since late August. PPP reports Obama up 6% in Colorado (51% to 45%) and up 4% in Florida (50% to 46%). Not only is Obama leading but has broken the 50% margin making it increasingly difficult for Romney to take the lead as he not only has to win undecided voters but also change minds. This late in the game voters are highly unlikely to bolt from one candidate to the other. Obama needs to win only one of the seven aforementioned states and Romney can take the rest. Those odds make Obama the safe bet while Romney is trudging up a highly tenuous path to victory.
Is the election over? Many, especially Republicans, argue that the forthcoming three debates may upend the race. The press, as the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan recently wrote, also would like a close finish because it makes better copy. The Obama campaign may be tripped by events home or abroad or a gaffe. But ebbs and flows are not at play here. Romney has never taken the lead and came out of the Republican primary highly bruised and with low favorable ratings. President Obama’s has maintained and only expanded his lead. The debates are over rated. The Superbowl attracts several times the viewership. There is little to suggest that the trajectory of the race will change in the final month anymore than it did in 2004 or 2008. Democrats hoped John Kerry would grow animated and rally undecideds, but companies are hard to turn in the final stretch. Ditto John McCain. This isn’t a movie. A candidate who has failed to articulate a coherent and attractive message, or ‘connect’ with voters, or whatever it may be isn’t about to ‘find his inner voice’ and leap to victory.
Romney and Obama will continue to sound the same themes and run the same campaigns. The final act will be no different from the rest in the eyes of the average American. They are not pundits closely ‘analyzing’ every move by either candidate. Politics, as two political sages once wrote, is like a constellation. Voters do not pick up all the details, only bits of it and those pieces form an image of the candidate. By now voters have two cemented images. They have seen all they need to see and the overwhelmingly majority in all states have made their decision. Now all is left is to vote.
The rest of the campaign is simply playing out a script whose end is now clear, as confident as one may be of that. The election is pretty much over.