No amount of silly gaffes by Romney will change the hard economic reality that many voters feel day to day across the country. Similarly, Obama's $1 trillion smile by itself is not going to close the deal with voters if the president doesn't offer a clear plan for accelerating the anemic economic recovery of the last three and a half years.
And while there is no doubt that the Republican ticket is going through a rough patch, 40 days are an eternity in American politics. The current landscape could easily be altered by a couple of game-changing events. Obama vs. Romney has been a close race, and it will be until the polls are officially closed on November 6. Most importantly, America loves underdogs (and she loves even more a comeback kid).
Having said that, Romney has a lot of work to do if he hopes to overcome the edge Obama has gained in crucial states like Ohio and Florida. But most importantly, the Republican nominee needs to do some soul searching (quickly) and go back to basics by sticking to the economic message that has been his gospel since he started running for the 2012 election.
And, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Thursday, he needs to look no further than Nevada and North Carolina to find the seeds of his recovery and potential comeback. While the race remains close at the national level, and Obama seems to have gained some ground in Ohio and Florida, Nevada and North Carolina offer glimmers of hope for the battered former governor of Massachusetts (if he bucks up once and for all).
According to the poll, Obama leads Romney by two-percentage point in Nevada (49% to 47%). The survey also found that the president leads Romney by two percentage points, 48% to 46% in North Carolina. The partial results in both states are within the margin of error, which technically puts Obama and his Republican challenger in a statistical tie. They also offer the Romney camp important clues (that is, if they are going to be able to read them) as to what the race ultimately will boil down to. It's still the economy, stupid.
Nevada's unemployment rate stands dangerously at 12.1%, well above the national average of 8.3%. Similarly, North Carolina's unemployment rate (9.1%) is still a painful reminder that -- while in some aspects we may be "better off" than four years ago -- we're far, far away from a definite economic recovery and dangerously close to sink further into chronic unemployment and the risk to be drowned by our debt.
This is the message Mitt Romney has to hammer away during the next 40 days or so. But he has to do it with a plan. The former CEO of Bain Capital and the Winter Olympics needs to show (don't tell) the leadership qualities that made him a successful executive in the private sector, and demonstrate American voters that he can act presidential by raising above the naysayers (of both parties) and turns things around with himself as well as with the country.