As Hurricane Sandy subsides and the east coast begins the long process of rebuilding, the political storm doesn’t seem to be getting any better for Mitt Romney. In the closing days of the 2012 election, “Mittmentum” is waning as swing state numbers and bungled campaign events combine to hurt Romney in must-win states in advance of Tuesday.
First up, Wednesday's swing-state polls should be making folks in Romneyland very nervous. Obama has gained in seven of nine crucial states, including massive gains in the three most important swing states: Virginia, Florida, and Ohio. Romney is at his lowest since before the first debate, barely breaking the mid-40s in many states he must win for a shot at the White House.
What makes this news even worse for Romney is that all of these polls were conducted before Hurricane Sandy hit, which means that the momentum was shifting in Obama’s direction in advance of Sandy slamming the breaks on campaign narratives. That means that in those few days where the campaigns had to take mandatory breathers, Obama was in the lead, while the Romney campaign watched their ever-dwindling “catch-up” time tick away. Now, with five campaign days to go before the election, Romney has a lot of ground to make-up if he hopes to carry enough swing states to get himself to the coveted 270 electoral votes.
To compound his problems, Romney and the GOP’s handling of Sandy is unlikely to win them any last minute favors.
Romney’s re-named Ohio campaign event fooled nobody. By “canceling” his campaign stop in Ohio, only to hold a “Sandy Charity Relief” event in the same place, with the same agenda, and the same speakers, looks like the kind of underhanded “win-at-all costs” politics that hurts Romney in the polls. No voter is buying the story that the best place to hold a Hurricane Sandy relief event was a political rally in Ohio.
Moreover, the fact that the “charity event” consisted of the Romney campaign buying $5,000 worth of goods to set up as props, despite the fact that the Red Cross explicitly asked for cash and not canned goods, only highlighted the political focus of the event.
The hits for Romney didn’t stop there.
In press conferences following Sandy’s making landfall, Romney was forced to doggedly dodge questions about his statements during the Republican primary in which he promised to gut FEMA and eliminate federal disaster relief. Meanwhile, former Bush FEMA head Michael Brown’s critique of Obama’s response to Sandy as “too quick” only served to remind voters what happened the last time a Republican President ran disaster relief.
By contrast, GOP Governor Chris Christie’s praise for Obama’s leadership and support in the aftermath of Sandy only served to underscore the point, painting Obama as a competent leader while throwing Romney no bones at all.
Finally, as if all of this news weren't bad enough, Romney stepped on his own toes again by running a shockingly misleading ad about the auto bailout in Ohio that generated an immediate backlash. The ad was slammed by the media for its dishonesty and even elicited a statement from Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, in which he called the ad’s claims “a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats” to make.
With less than six days left, Romney’s shot at the White House is quickly vanishing. If the numbers don’t reverse course quickly, the Romney campaign will have to pull out nothing short of a miracle to carry the day on November 6.