1. Bad news on the economy. Americans are hurting, and the president owns this economy. Two more unemployment reports are due out before the election. “It’s not over for the simple fact that the economy means [Obama] has a national ceiling of about 51 [percent],” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who has witnessed the premature burial of many candidates. Still, like most Democrats, Lehane is grateful that Obama drew Romney as a rival. “The only reason it is not over is [because] there is time on the clock and the score is within reach because of the economy,” he said in an e-mail. “But they don’t have a QB capable of mounting a winning drive.”

2. A foreign-policy crisis. Had Romney not rushed to make the assault on U.S. embassies a political issue, the mess in the Middle East might be a bigger problem for Obama. Rather than filing stories about the Romney gaffe, journalists may have pointed their pens at Obama and asked, “Who lost the Arab street?” But the president is not off the hook: History shows that nothing makes a president look weak more quickly than a bungled foreign-policy crisis.

3. A bad debate. During the contentious Democratic nomination fight in 2008, Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a debate that Obama is “very likable.” Obama responded with a curt, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” It was called a major gaffe, and more than one pundit used it as a proof point for their case against an Obama presidency. Anything can go wrong in a debate, and Obama is not a perfect debater.