Even more encouraging than the new Gallup numbers, I think, and circumstantial evidence that maybe Major Garrett was right yesterday about Team O preparing to pull back from some swing states. The catch with Gallup’s tracker is that it’s the only national pollster showing anything close to a seven-point lead right now; doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but allegedly even GOP pollsters aren’t picking up a lead like that in their internal numbers. To get a better sense of Romney’s surge, says election guru Sean Trende, follow the (campaign) money: “Simply put, if Romney were up 7, he’d be advertising in PA, MI, OR, CT and wouldn’t spend a dime in FL.”
Let’s follow the money, then. Don’t look now, but according to the AP, Team Mitt’s thinking of advertising in PA and MI:
At the same time, the GOP presidential nominee’s advisers and the Republican National Committee are looking to give Romney more routes to reaching the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory. They are weighing whether to shift resources from North Carolina, where Republicans express confidence of winning, into states long considered safe territory for President Barack Obama, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The evolving strategy comes as both candidates work to capitalize on their second debate-stage meeting, a Tuesday night face off in which Romney emphasized his bipartisan credentials as well as his efforts to hire women while Massachusetts governor, and declared, “I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people.”
CNN is reporting just as I’m writing this that Team Mitt is indeed moving some (but not all) of its assets out of NC. RCP moved North Carolina from toss-up to “leans Republican” today, which put Romney ahead in the projected electoral vote count for the first time in the campaign. Mitt 206, Obama 201, with 29 EVs from Florida still in the toss-up column but hopefully ready to move soon. If that state starts to lean too, Romney will have 235 somewhat bankable votes with nine true toss-up states left to deliver him the remaining 35. The likeliest path is Ohio plus Virginia plus any other state, but if he really is playing to win in Michigan and Pennsylvania and not just forcing Obama to spend money there to defend those states, he could get 36 EVs just between those two. I’ve always thought Romney could win those states only as gravy, if a big red wave washes over the map and carries all of the more competitive swing states with it first, but who knows what GOP pollsters are seeing in their numbers right now. Romney’s debate demolition of Obama was a true game-changer; only people with deep data know what the game really looks like at this point.
A Republican source tells Jim Geraghty that he is indeed seeing signs of Team O retreating from North Carolina but not from Florida — or at least not yet. The margin there’s still too close, and there are too many EVs at stake, to pull back before the last debate. But if Romney’s poll surge continues, it’ll be time for hard decisions by Team Hopenchange next week. Their dilemma: Is it worth abandoning a big state that they really don’t need to win in order to allocate resources more efficiently, or would conceding Florida be too damaging spin-wise and depressing to their base to risk it? Binder jokes can keep liberals running on fumes until the next debate, but if Florida starts to wobble, the tone next week will shift. A lot.
Here’s Soledad O’Brien broadcasting from another dimension where Obama leads Romney by 15 points in Virginia. Oh — forgot to mention: Obama’s job approval is four points underwater nationally. According to … the Daily Kos’s pollster.