Obama carried Ohio by 5 points and predebate polling had him up 5 (I’ve rounded off the percentages and rounded .5s to the lower integer). Obama carried Virginia by 7 points, and predebate polling had him up 3.
In contrast, predebate polls had Obama lagging further behind his 2008 showing in five other target states — Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Not to worry, Obama strategists said. If we hold Florida, Ohio and Virginia, we’ve got 332 electoral votes, way more than 270. We can afford to lose the 35 electoral votes in those other five states.
But what if the fire wall doesn’t hold? If the big three go for Romney, Obama is down to 272. If he loses one more state, he can join Al Gore on Current TV.
The Obama strategy didn’t count on a debate performance like the one 70 million Americans watched Wednesday night.