Bad news: Obama campaign starting to think they might lose

posted at 8:01 pm on May 24, 2012 by Allahpundit

It’s amazing what a few competitive polls can do to concentrate the mind.

Democrats had taken comfort for months in the Republican Party’s seeming inability to get behind Mitt Romney, Obama’s healthy lead in the polls, and equally healthy job growth. And for a few, fleeting, moments, Democrats thought the election might just be easy. But Republican division appears to have been merely an artifact of primary politics, and Mitt Romney has proved a consistent, if unglamorous campaigner…

“There was this sense maybe a month or two ago that Obama was really riding high — that he had gotten his base behind him and the economy was doing better and it had this Clinton vs. Bob Dole 1996 feeling — that he was going to cruise,” said one 2008 Obama aide who does not work for this year’s campaign. “And now it feels like it’s going to be really tough — a 2004 race.”

Indeed the campaign is shaping up to be a close-combat battle for one percent of swing voters in a few hundred precincts across three or four states…

Moreover, a campaign that two months ago seemed infallible has proven to be very capable of making mistakes. Obama’s aides were taken aback when Vice President Joe Biden publicly backed same sex marriage — and spent a week punishing him for speaking out in the press. Long preparation for attacks on Romney’s time at Bain Capital, aimed at changing the narrative, nevertheless left them flat-footed when Republicans (and even a few Democrats) counter-attacked. Romney, who stumbled into the Republican nomination, scored his first tactical victory of the general election and further shored up the Republican base in the process.

Were there really any Democrats who thought Republicans wouldn’t unite behind Romney? Conservatives have spent three years lamenting every move the White House makes; when given a choice between Obama and Not Obama, there was never a scintilla of doubt how enthusiastic they’d be for the latter. And Romney’s big selling point, of course, was electability, so there was also never much reason for Democrats to think they’d win easily among the center. Their only strong hands against Mitt were O’s likability advantage, which might move votes at the margins but likely won’t be decisive, and the hope/prayer that a crude class-warfare campaign might get traction among working-class voters. No dice so far. They still might win — Romney’s political track record suggests he needs a big spending advantage to make him competitive and that’s not happening this time — but this is a national election in a 50/50 age after a rough first term economically. Go figure that the polls might narrow.

Karl Rove says a Romney win is as easy as 3-2-1:

After this initial hurdle, Mr. Romney’s victory road starts with “3”—as in Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia, a trio of historically Republican states. In 2008, Mr. Obama won by narrow margins in Indiana (barely 1%) and North Carolina (0.32%)…

[I]f Mr. Romney can put these states’ combined 39 electoral votes back into the GOP column, the Electoral College vote would be 319 for Mr. Obama, 219 for Mr. Romney…

Next up is “2”—as in Florida and Ohio. They flipped from Republican in 2004 to Democratic in 2008. Both were close—a 2.8% margin for Mr. Obama in the former and 4.6% in the latter…

These two states have a combined 47 electoral votes. If Mr. Romney wins them, the Electoral College would stand at 272 for Mr. Obama, 266 for Mr. Romney.

If he wins those five then all he needs is any one of the following: New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, or Nevada, the last of which has a famously large Mormon population and, as Rove notes, the nation’s highest unemployment rate. I think Romney can win there given his advantages; I think he can win Florida too given how close it was last time and how well he did in the primary this time. (The bombshell Quinnipiac poll yesterday was surprising but not that surprising.) I’m less sure about Virginia and Ohio and so is Romney, I’d bet, which is why Rob Portman is quickly becoming a heavy favorite to land on the ticket. With him as VP, not only do you get a boost in Ohio and the reassurance of a seasoned and uncontroversial pol at number two, but maybe you’ll get just enough extra interest from his neighbors in western Pennsylvania to make that state a bit more competitive too. I don’t think Romney will bother with PA unless the polls start to look shockingly good for him, and even then they probably won’t look shockingly good unless something dramatic happens nationally and he seems on his way to a landslide. But Portman probably helps a little there and a little could mean a lot.

As a cherry on top of O’s anxiety sundae, here’s the Democrat who’s running to replace Gabby Giffords in Arizona politely declining to say whom he’ll be voting for in November.

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