Gathering Storm: Time for Dems to Hit Panic Button

Gathering Storm: Time for Dems to Hit Panic Button

A massive and historic storm is barreling towards the beltway this weekend. The entire DC-NYC axis, headquarters of the left media complex, will suffer the effects of three storm-fronts, converging at the same time. Evacuations may be ordered, but it is likely too late. No, I’m not talking about Hurricane Sandy. The storm I mean is the growing realization that Obama is on the cusp of losing the election. But, with just a little over a week to go, it may be too late to hit the panic button.  

Democrats and the media have labored under several false assumptions the entire campaign. They wove these into a narrative that Obama’s reelection was inevitable. It may have helped them sleep at night, but it caused them to miss the tectonic plates shifting beneath the election. This weekend three storm-fronts started converging that will sweep their assumptions away. Let’s look at each in turn. 

The first storm-front is the expanding campaign battleground. I’ve long noted that which states become competitive towards the end of the race can tell you a lot about the state of the campaign. In 2008, when “red” states like Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina and Montana suddenly became competitive, it was a clear sign that Obama had a huge momentum advantage. This year, however, it is “blue” states becoming competitive. In the final week, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota are emerging as new battleground states. If Romney’s position is improving in states like these, its a good sign that he slated to win states like Florida, Colorado, Virginia and Ohio. 

Even if Obama still has the edge in these newly competitive states, the fact that the campaign will have to spend resources to shore them up says a lot about the campaign’s weak position. 

The second storm-front is the increased convergence of the polls in the direction of Romney. Most national tracking polls show Romney with a lead, with two, Rasmussen and Gallup, showing him over the important 50% threshold. For a week or so, Democrats consoled themselves that Obama led in state-level polling. Most of those polls were built on samples that assumed Democrats would match or exceed the turnout advantage they enjoyed in 2008. This was always something of a fantasy, but now even this assumption can’t prop up Obama. Virtually every state poll over the last week has shown consistent movement towards Romney. Moreover, virtually every state poll shows Obama stuck below the 50% level of support. 

For a variety of reasons, it is very difficult for an incumbent to get back above 50% once they have fallen below it for a considerable period of time. North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and Virginia are likely now out of reach for Obama. Ohio is definitely moving towards Romney. 

Romney’s poll movement isn’t just on the overall head-to-head match up, though. In almost every poll he now has a substantial lead on who would better handle the economy. He has a significant lead on who can best tackle federal spending and the deficit. He is also starting to lead on the softer questions like “understands my problems”, is a “strong leader” and “can get things done. This suggests a major preference cascade toward the challenger. 

Most important, though, is the clear lead Romney has with Independents. In 2008, Obama won independents by 8 points. This year, Romney leads among Independents in virtually every national or state poll, often by double-digits. There is simply no path for Obama to win reelection if he loses Independents by that kind of margin. 

The third, most significant storm-front descending on Democrats is the change in the electorate. In 2008, the Democrats rode an historic wave from a near perfect political storm to their largest turnout advantage in decades. In the final vote, Democrats edged Republicans by 7 points, making the election D+7. New research from Rasmussen and Gallup, however, show that, not only is that advantage gone, but Republicans now have the edge. Both surveys report, for the first time in modern history, that more likely voters identify as Republicans than Democrats. Considering that every poll has found GOP voters more enthusiastic about voting then Democrats, this edge may be decisive. Keep in mind that every poll is built on the assumption that Democrats will have a turnout edge next week. If they don’t have the edge or if the GOP has an advantage? Well, this could be a blowout. And, a lot of down-ballot Dems will be swept under as well. 

When the history of Obama’s failed reelection campaign is written, it will be noted that Obama’s campaign made a critical strategic blunder. Their plan was to disqualify Romney at the outset, rather than other up a compelling agenda for a second term. They essentially decided to run a challenger’s race, dragging down the opponent in a wave of negative ads. When Romney took the stage at the first debate in Denver, he didn’t just defeat Obama, he defeated Obama’s entire campaign plan. The Romney on the stage didn’t match the caricature painted by Obama and the media. It gave him an opening which he seized.

Obama responded by ratcheting up negative attacks and getting engulfed in small-bore issues issues relevant to mere slivers of the voting base. Big Bird. Binders. Bayonets. In a time of economic uncertainty and looming fiscal crisis, the issues Obama focused on were ridiculous. They were patently unserious. But, these are serious times. 

So, going into the final week, Romney looks like a President on the road to reelection, while Obama looks like a challenger who knows he’s about to lose. While the “Gang of 500″ media mavens hunker down for Hurricane Sandy, left with their own thoughts after the inevitable power outages, and away from cocooning lefty reassurances from people like Nate Silver, they will have this realization too. Campaign 2012 is just about over. And so, too, is Obama.

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