Republicans have long hoped that the 2012 race would break open at the end: once Romney proves he’s a suitable alternative to the president, they have argued, the race will tip decisively away from the incumbent. Romneyworld isn’t expecting that outcome, but at least some on the GOP side still think it’s within the realm of possibility.

Republican pollster Ed Goeas — one of the pollsters behind the POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll — said it might take an outside event to run up the score for Romney. He pointed specifically to the October unemployment report coming next Friday, days before Nov. 6.

“If those unemployment numbers go back to 8 percent, I guarantee you Romney’s going to win this thing by 4 or 5 points. That will be the equivalent of the Bush DUI story coming out before the election on steroids,” Goeas said, referring to the damaging 11th-hour disclosure in 2000 that then-Gov. Bush had once been arrested for driving while intoxicated.

If winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote is something that could probably only happen to Obama, a surprise landslide may be a Romney-only contingency. After all, as Republicans and Democrats alike have found this cycle, it’s awfully difficult to change voters’ perceptions of a sitting president.