The post-Sandy, pre-Election Day polls are all in. And Romney is hanging onto a slim lead in national polls, while the swing states have not changed much–except that Minnesota and Pennsylvania are now in play. The election–like the historic 1980 election that brought Ronald Reagan to power–is too close to call.
It is clear that superstorm Sandy–or, more accurately, the media megastorm around the superstorm–cost Romney a few points nationwide. But the bounce seems to have passed, and with it the opportunity for President Barack Obama to make the most of the moment. Indeed, he may have deflated his own bounce.
When Obama bounded across the tarmac last Thursday in a leather bomber jacket, emblazoned with a “commender-in-chief” patch, he was clearly feeling the wind at his back. He had just returned to the campaign trail from New Jersey, where he cut a figure of national unity with Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
But over the next 48 hours, instead of amplifying that message, Barack Obama reverted to form, calling for voters to take “revenge” and launching one negative attack after another on Republican rival Mitt Romney. While Romney kept his message positive, riding the storm out, Obama went back to the rhetoric of division.
When the votes are counted, that may prove to have been a huge tactical mistake. On Friday and Saturday, the Obama campaign was forced to try to explain his “revenge” remark. (Today the campaign told the media it had “no regrets” about Obama’s choice of words.) Meanwhile, the mainstream media began–slowly–to cover the distressing reality of government failure in Sandy’s aftermath, once Obama’s photo-op was long past.
All of that combined to dampen Obama’s renewed momentum–leaving Romney to seize the initiative once again, holding massive rallies in Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Fresh polls from formerly “blue” states gave GOP activists renewed hope of victory by a wide margin. Volunteers turned out in droves for get-out-the-vote drives.
What conservatives are feeling today is renewed enthusiasm–the makings of a new surge for Romney, just in time for Election Day. Some polls assume Democrats will turn out in 2008-like numbers. But polls that actually measure party identification suggest otherwise–and anecdotal evidence seems to confirm Republican excitement.
The media, and luck, had set Obama up with a chance to win yet another improbable victory. And yet, once again, faced with the choice between being a leader for all the people, he chose to be the leader of some against others. When the history of the 2012 election is written, that may turn out to have been a fateful choice.