So this is what it looks like on Sept. 20, 2012, 47 days to the election that Newt Gingrich kept calling the most consequential since 1860:
In the presidential race, Mitt Romney remains neck and neck with Barack Obama in both the Rasmussen and Gallup tracking polls, with most of Obama’s post-convention bounce eroding. Other recent polls, however, show Obama building a significant lead. The latest Pew poll puts Obama up eight points; the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll puts him up five.
But Romney’s real problems show up at the state level. In the swing states that he has to have — Ohio, Virginia, Florida — poll after poll shows his situation deteriorating significantly. At a point in the campaign where he has to be shrinking the margin, the margin is growing. Fox puts Romney down seven in Ohio, down five in Florida and down seven in Virginia.
Republican hopes to take the Senate, a goal the party once deemed a near certainty, seem to be collapsing as well. In state after state, the numbers are turning. Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio, Wisconsin — in every crucial state in which fresh numbers are available, the tide is strongly Democratic. Last night in red Arizona, a new poll put Democrat Richard Carmona up by five over U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, the first lead Carmona has enjoyed. Other polls will be needed to confirm that switch, but back in June, Rasmussen gave Flake a seemingly insurmountable 16-point lead.
“I’m not one for hyperbole,” Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight tweeted last night. “But GOP Senate map is imploding. Chance of a takeover now just 21%.”
Most if not all of these numbers were generated before release of the video of Mitt Romney speaking a little too candidly to a roomful of donors. But GOP candidates all over the country are explicitly rejecting those remarks, running from them like Japanese villagers fleeing Godzilla. In Washington yesterday, Senate Republican leaders abandoned the microphones rather than take questions on the subject. (Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, has an admirably frank analysis of Romney’s distorted mindset at Politico.)
Even if you don’t put much credence in poll numbers, watch and listen to the Republican political professionals. If you don’t believe it, they do. Some are already in blame-shifting or recrimination mode, or trying to tamp down panic. Their internal polls are apparently telling them what the public polls are telling the rest of us. They also understand that if this turns out to be what it looks like — a broad and significant shift toward Democrats — Democratic control of the House, once considered little more than a far-fetched dream by party leaders, could — I stress could — become a possibility.
On the GOP side of the ledger, 47 days is a long time in politics, and Romney still has three debates against Obama in which to turn things around. He has a lot of money yet to spend, both in his own campaign coffers and through “independent” campaigns funded by wealthy conservatives. Outside events could also intervene. (However, his ham-handed approach to events in Egypt and Libya don’t inspire confidence in his ability to turn that to his advantage, should it occur.)
Finally, electoral waves that build too early have a way of cresting and receding by the time Election Day comes around. So it ain’t over, not for a while yet.
But something does seem to be going on out there.
– Jay Bookman