They can't both be right: on the one side, the Republican partisans and political "pros" who say that Romney is on the certain road to victory, and on the other the quants who say No he is not. Of course either side allows for uncertainty about the final outcome: there are still two weeks to go. But about the state and the trend of the race, at this moment, they are in fundamental disagreement. The "pros" tell us that Romney is catching up, the quants say he is falling behind.
Weigel takes issue with Chait's analysis:
Can't two things be true? Can't it be true, first that the Romney campaign is both up and overstating its momentum, to take advantage of the horse race story? After all, if you're winning the horse race story, you're winning all manner of fringe benefits. An Obama who's in position to win and mocking "Romnesia" is deploying a successful zinger. An Obama who's losing the horse race is "desparately clinging to small ideas," like "Romnesia."
But can't it also be true that Romney's put himself in the position to win?
It's very, very close – and that's because Obama never adopted a new and daring economic proposal for his second term (like tax reform or Bowles-Simpson), and then allowed Romney to appear the only one with an actual change agenda in the first debate. I stand entirely by my freak-out at the time. It was completely merited. More of a freak-out was merited.
In that moment, Obama threw his momentum and his strategy in the trash and, in my view, has been flailing around ever since. He was meep meeped. Romney drew him in with the severe conservative posture of the primaries, then etch-a-sketched as Moderate Mitt in the first debate so shamelessly, the entire campaign narrative was altered. And it was altered in Romney's structural favor.
Yes, it's amazing that a human being can have so few scruples, such an effortless ease with lying, and literally junk his entire program overnight with nary even an explanation. It's amazing still that polarization in this country would allow evangelicals and Tea Partiers not to start worrying about this chameleon. But this is Romney. He aims to please. He markets "himself" as a product to different demographics. And marketing works, if you are prepared to turn yourself into a soulless, content-free, power-seeking robot.
In other words, Obama has allowed Romney to represent change in a country where the wrong track number is still 54 percent (see above), and the right track number is 40. In that climate, "change" always beats "more of the same". Right now, Romney is "change" and Obama is "more of the same." Advantage: Romney.
My caveat is Ohio, where the auto-bailout may save the president, as it deserves to.
My other caveat is a faith that the American people can in the end see through the hollow salesmanship of Romney, recognize the remarkably persistent record of the past four years, acknowledge the immense mountain of crap that Obama faced when he entered the post-Bush-Cheney White House, and give him a second term and a second chance. Things are getting better in the economy, if only lsowly because of the immense hangover of debt.
The Electoral College is also favoring him slightly, but when you look at it, you cannot fail to see the free-fall after October 3, and the rocky floor he now rests upon. Nonetheless, as Sam Wang insists:
The Meta-Margin shows how much the race would have to swing to create an electoral near-tie. It is precise to within 0.5% or less. Today, the race is quite close. However, note this. In terms of the Electoral College, President Obama has been ahead on every single day of the campaign, without exception.
I would then give the following verdict: Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney.
Obama's by far the better candidate with the better moral character. And his proposals add up, while his opponent's don't. And his foreign policy – in a deeply troubled period – has been such a model of calm management that Romney basically conceded the entire argument last night (even as the neocons hover ominously around him). Obama deserves to win. But anyone who thinks he has done anything since October 3 but stanch the bleeding is in denial.
He threw this election away. But even after that act of self-immolation, the race is still basically tied, with a tiny Obama advantage in the Electoral College. That tells me there may be more underlying strength in Obama's position than I am currently emotionally capable of accepting.