This is turning out to be a very strange Presidential election. At the moment it looks like Obama is ahead of Romney. But most of the polling done so far has such skewed sampling (ie. based on the 2008 vote) that it is almost impossible to take them seriously. One recent poll even had a D+13 sample! That sort of demographic is a fantasy, unless you live in Massachusetts. The only truly reliable polls (and not entirely without coincidence, the only Republican polling company) is Rasmussen. If a poll doesn’t have Rasmussen on it, it’s not worth jack shit.
So what do we learn from Rasmussen? Well, the two candidates are neck and neck, and seem to have been that way forever. There’s been plenty of "moments" in the campaign, but it seems to have had almost no effect on the numbers. And Rasmussen polls in individual swing states are sporadic, so how the electoral college will go is a toss-up.
This makes things very hard for Romney. He could win some of the swing states, but not others, which would make those magical 270 electoral college votes precarious to reach. He definitely needs to win Florida – there is no path to the Presidency without it. But he is also level-pegging in Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado, with Michigan, New Hampshire and New Mexico marginally in play. Romney would have to win the majority of those toss-ups to become President. To do that, there needs to be some sort of game changer, because as it stands, there is too much uncertainty about that possibility for anyone to be comfortable.
What can Romney do? He made an inspired choice in picking Paul Ryan for his VP nominee, but that barely moved the polls other than in Wisconsin. He had a terrible convention where other speakers barely mentioned him and nobody watched. The Democrats had a lousy convention too, but at least they had Bill Clinton, who gave an amazing speech. That speech didn’t give the Dems much of a bounce either, but it was enough to put Obama back up. There are very few undecided voters left – most people have already made up their minds. Romney is already winning Independent voters. To move up, he is going to have to shift soft Democrats.
Those soft Dems are the key. Essentially they don’t like Obama, but they have bought the line that Obama inherited such a mess from George W Bush that no-one could have restored America’s fortunes in four years. In fact, Clinton said that very thing in his speech. And their fear with Romney is that he would be George W Bush Part Two. Romney has failed to adequately counter that charge.
That’s really what this election has come down to. Obama has decided to run against Bush (again), and it is working for him. The only way Romney is going to win is to come out swinging to point out the emperor has no clothes. They need to mercilessly mock Obama for trying to blame Bush, and destroy that lie once and for all. They also need to contrast themselves and Bush. If they can do that successfully, Obama has no more cards in his deck. If they don’t, and they continue to campaign the same way, they will lose.
I actually think Romney has campaigned pretty well so far, all things considered. Everything he has done is pretty much what I would have done. But now he needs to shift gears, or we will be stuck with Mr Six Trillion Dollars of My Daughters’ Money Down the Toilet. Oh, and did I mention World War Three? Yeah, that’s coming too, no matter who gets elected.