"Most political professionals, including many Republicans, think that President Obama will win reëlection handily"

Despite having been an early proponent of the view that things were shifting in Obama’s direction, I am reluctant to embrace the new conventional wisdom that the result is virtually a foregone conclusion. If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that things can change pretty rapidly in American politics. Unlike Walter Mondale in 1984 or Bob Dole in 1996, Romney isn’t a complete no-hoper. According to a new poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, three in four Americans still think that the economy is in recession, and, by a margin of four percentage points, voters trust Romney more than Obama to handle the economy…

If the G.O.P. is to have any chance of taking back the White House, it needs to start turning around these numbers. Although Santorum’s exit isn’t likely to have much immediate impact on the polling data, it does give Romney an opportunity to reframe the race as a referendum on Obama rather than a contest among unpopular Republicans. At the same time, he can start to repair some of the damage that the primary race has done to his own standing. With the challenge from the right largely removed—there is still Newt—he should be able to tack back to the center, which, as the Etch A Sketch gaffe made clear, is what he was intending to do along.

Another urgent task is to narrow the gender gap, which Santorum, with his out-of-the-mainstream views on contraception and abortion, helped widen into a chasm. In the USA Today/Gallup poll, Romney was trailing Obama by a stunning eighteen points among women in battleground states. Inevitably, a lot of attention will be focussed on the possibility of Romney selecting a plausible Republican woman as his running mate. But where is she to be found? Most of the obvious candidates are very conservative. And as a former C.E.O. himself, he can hardly pick a moderate businesswoman like Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina.