So the view that Obama is going to lose can — or at least could have — quickly become the conventional wisdom. If that happens, we would end up with a vicious cycle that looks something like this: The Democratic base becomes downtrodden, its enthusiasm falls, the right’s enthusiasm skyrockets, the likely-voter screens skew more Republican, and Obama falls even further behind in the polls. Instead, we have a campaign where everyone marvels at Obama’s constant lead, further adding to the mythos surrounding his supposed inability to lose.
This is why the Oct. 3 debate really might have marked an important, structural change point in the campaign. Now, I’m emphatically not arguing that Obama can’t win the election after his poor performance (and Romney’s strong performance) at that face-off. In fact, I still regard him as the slight favorite. But we’ve seen exactly the combination Team Obama worked assiduously to avoid: Romney re-consolidating his base, Republican enthusiasm skyrocketing, and the president’s aura of invulnerability pierced.
This leaves two important, unknown questions. First, to where does gravity pull Obama? Is the mean to which he regresses a narrow lead? Or is it a significant loss?