5:00 am ET
If you are paying close attention to the presidential campaign, chances are that at some point this weekend, you talked with someone who assured you that the race is all but over and President Obama will win. This ubiquitous conventional wisdom is mostly propelled by the battleground state polling showing significant and nearly uniform Democratic leads, Romney’s various gaffes, flaps, and weak performances, and roiling divisions within the Republican Party. Indeed, I’ve heard this sentiment myself in the last few days from, among others, a prominent Romney fundraiser in the Midwest, a rabidly partisan GOP mortgage broker, and a virulently anti-Obama corporate executive with national political campaign experience.
However, while it is true that Romney faces a tough comeback terrain, it is entirely premature to declare the race over. There has been a flood of advice of late from frustrated Republican operatives and pundits about how Romney can turn things around, some of it sensible, including suggesting he be more specific about how his presidency would differ from four more years of Obama.
At this point, however, Romney’s conduct is only one of three elements required for him to overcome the incumbent’s narrow but persistent lead. To be sure, Romney must stop making errors, improve his stump speech, and perform well in the debates. But a comeback will also depend on happenstance and circumstance.
Sometimes in politics you make your own luck, but sometimes luck makes you. President Obama has had his share of bad fortune (the BP oil spill, for example), but Candidate Obama has led a pretty charmed life in this four-year cycle up until now. If his current run is interrupted in the next fortnight (with, say, a national security crisis), Romney will have an opening.
But Romney’s greatest hope remains, as it has been from the beginning, the economy. The unrattled strategists in Boston continue to profess a belief that, in the end, the conditions of the last four years, and the pubic sentiment that the President would continue to govern as a liberal, are enough to cause a surge on Election Day that is not being fully picked up in the polling.
Don’t get me wrong: if you were betting today, Obama is the safe choice. But if Romney closes strong, gets a break or two, and the focus goes back on the economy, November 6 will see a close contest, and, maybe, a surprising outcome.
Here’s the video version of my Take from “Morning Joe”: