On Friday, Politico reported that the Obama campaign was planning to revisit the issue of Romney's tax returns. For ten days, since the first debate, the Obama campaign had been shedding its poll advantage. Revisiting this old issue was their response? I took the story as confirmation that the Obama campaign had no new attack lines to blunt Romney's gaining momentum. The media, clearly, took the news as a time for panic. Obama wasn't able to save himself, so they would have to do it for him.
Almost as if on cue, the media this morning went wall-to-wall with explanations for how Obama, in spite of recent polls, still had the edge in the race. Much of the conversation was framed around a new WaPo/ABC poll, released this morning, showing Obama maintaining a 3-point edge over Romney, 49-46. This single poll was almost solely responsible for erasing Romney's lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average. But, as I noted this morning, this wasn't so much a poll as propaganda.
The last three polls conducted by WaPo/ABC have used a D+3-6 sample. Today's poll, however, used a D+9 sample. WaPo would have you believe that, since the first debate and revelations about the Obama Administration's cover-up of the Libyan crisis, there has been a surge of support towards Democrats. Its own poll showed Romney's likability rising and a huge shift in enthusiasm toward the GOP nominee, and yet Democrats are going to have a bigger turnout advantage than four years ago? It defies anything approaching reason.
Yet, even with both hands on the scale, Obama can't crack 50% in the WaPo poll.
Politico also released its latest Battleground poll this morning. It also finds the race essentially tied, with Obama edging Romney by 1 point, 46-45. Obama, yet again, is under 50%. This poll has a seemingly respectable D+3 sample. But, the polling sample has a particularly odd quirk: only 15% of the sample are Independents. This is far below their share of the electorate. Romney leads among Independents by 10 points, with Obama securing only 36% of the Independent vote. It could simply be that the poll "pushes" people into one of the two parties, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.
As long as Obama doesn't fall off the stage tomorrow, the media will declare him the winner of the townhall debate. That and today's polls will be used to publish the "Obama comeback" stories that were likely filed over the weekend. The media rightly see this week as the last chance to turn the election back into Obama's favor.
But, the media seems to be developing a back-up strategy. As the national polls continue to drift towards Romney, they are pushing the argument that Obama continues to have the edge in the key battleground states. The Huffington Post took the lead on this argument this morning. Sure, Romney is leading national polls, it argues, but Obama has a clear advantage in the swing states and, thus, the electoral college.
The problem with this argument, though, is that Obama's "firewall" is clearly breaking apart. This afternoon, USAToday released its latest poll of the 12 battleground states. Romney has surged to a 5 point lead in these critical states. He even crossed the critical 50% threshold and now leads 51-46.
The Obama campaign is furiously trying to spin the poll as an "outlier," but it is consistent with the trend over the last week in which Romney has gained ground in every individual swing state.
Romney and Obama enter the final sprint of the campaign with equal financial resources. Romney clearly begins with an edge and growing momentum. It is becoming increasingly hard to see how Obama can break back into the lead. It is moving beyond the media's ability to save Obama.
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