Much of an election outcome depends on forces outside anybody’s control; very little is within the power of a candidate and his campaign. Yet Romney managed to do the things he could do quite well.

He finished the GOP nomination season without dividing his party and without having to take positions on issues that would later alienate swing voters. He raised a tremendous amount of money. He picked a fantastic candidate for vice president. His convention was solid, if not spectacular. And his debate performances uniformly gave the impression that he is a decent man who is fluent on the issues and whose highest priority is exactly what the American people most want, a robust economy.

The Obama team thought it could effectively disqualify Romney from the presidency before the real campaign even began, but this was a -mistake. In truth, they committed the same error that so many in the mainstream press did: They underestimated Romney’s appeal as a candidate, which, as everybody saw in the debates, is in fact very strong.

And now the Obama campaign is in a real bind. With a week left and behind in the polls, the president must dislodge the voters’ impression that Romney is the better man to handle the big issues. Hence, Obama’s starkly negative tenor and tone over the last few days. More and more, his campaign resembles those run by losers in the modern era; there is a kind of annoyance and anger to his attacks, which so far are not resonating with average Americans. Perhaps before the campaign is over, he’ll repeat Bob Dole’s frustrated cry of “Where’s the outrage?”