This Wednesday, Obama Campaign senior adviser David Axelrod made a funny quip about the possibility of Mitt Romney winning Michigan, Pennsylvania or Minnesota on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He said, "I will come on Morning Joe and I will shave my moustache of 40 years if we lose any of those three states."
This was the first in a firestorm of rhetoric coming from the Obama campaign and pundits who are confident that this race is over. Nate Silver compared Obama's position in the election to an NFL team up a field goal with 3 minutes left to play (who win 79% of the time). Obama's chief political strategist said that Romney would have to "essentially pull and inside straight" to win this election. Here is the swing state map showing Obama's "firewall" of states that inspire such confidence.
Given the traditional models of how states lean in elections, this confidence is not entirely displaced. However, the unexpected is happening right now. Several states that are traditionally blue are ripening. Wisconsin is one of the biggest surprises. Obama carried this state last election by 14 points. Since then, Wisconsin elected a Republican Governor, Scott Walker. Some voters immediately tried to recall him, and failed. Now, another popular Republican from Wisconsin is running on the Republican ticket, Paul Ryan. Wisconsin is a workingman's state and unemployment has not dropped below 7.9% since January 2009. Currently, Obama is only ahead by .7%, according to the Washington Post ABC tracking poll. Since it is far from certain that Obama will carry this state, it is becoming more likely that Mitt Romney will carry Wisconsin.
The firewall is not so surefire after all.
But wait, there is more. Michigan is also in play. The latest Detroit News poll places Mitt Romney just 2.7% behind Obama, and within the margin of error. This is a state that Obama carried by 16 points last election and has been a blue state since 1988. However, this is also a state that is no stranger to the name Romney. Mitt's father was a very popular governor in Michigan. Although it will be a tough battle for Mitt to carry Michigan, it is certainly possible. A red Michigan could very well be the Black Swan that nobody saw coming. Expect both candidates to shift campaign strategies as they divert resources to Michigan and Wisconsin in the coming hours before the election.
Mr. Axelrod, sir, your moustache is in jeopardy after all.