Setting aside the national polls, which have essentially worn out their usefulness at this point, the race still hinges on Ohio, where Obama leads by at least one point in almost every poll but the right-leaning Rasmussen, which has him down by two.
As Nate Silver mentioned in a recent article on Five Thirty-Eight, the race actually looks very similar to here it was in the spring — a point which begs the question: how much have the post-debate bounces, jumps, and creeps actually affected the state of the race?
There was an undeniable surge of “Mitt-mentum” after the first debate, which has narrowed some of Obama’s leads in swing states such as Ohio and Colorado.
But the end game scenario of a Romney win still hinges on running the table on more than half of the toss-up states.
In an effort to counter this narrative the Romney team has tried to expand the electoral map by purchasing ads in Pennsylvania, as well as increasing campaigning in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.
As Jim Messina points out in a recent ad from the Obama campaign, it is more likely that this gambit derives from weakness rather than strength. This brings us back to spring, and the likelihood that the Romney team may very well end up regretting not digging in earlier in states like Wisconsin or Nevada; though this approach might have siphoned off resources from current necessary toss up states like Florida and Virginia.
Another factor to consider is the impact of Hurricane Sandy, aka “Frankenstorm,” on the race.
Before Sandy inundated the east coast, the Romney campaign was enjoying modest news cycle coverage about the possibility that he was gaining momentum. There was also focus on the newly prominent Romney narrative that he is the candidate of change and Obama is the candidate of the status quo. Then Sandy hit, and playing politics took a back a seat for a moment that couldn’t last long enough.
Progressive blogs were quick to jump on Romney for his primary statements on weakening FEMA.
Romney then ignored at least a dozen questions regarding FEMA from reporters at a photo-op accepting donations for victims of Sandy. Lending more credibility to the thesis that Romney appeared to be scrambling, his campaign had also released a bizarre ad on the automobile industry.
So where does this leave the campaign?
It leaves Bill Clinton shoring up support for the president in Minnesota by turning Romney’s convention quip about sea-levels against him. And then there's Obama adviser David Axelrod wagering that he’ll shave his mustache if they lose any of the vital battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.
Barring an inexplicable gaffe or political mistake, it now seems like the Democrats have retaken the momentum from Romney. As swing states continue to hold for the Obama team, the mathematical probability of an Electoral College surprise for Romney continues to dwindle by the day.