Commentary: Don't write Mitt Romney off just yet

The Kansas City StarSeptember 27, 2012 

It's over, right?

Lots of analysts this week spent lots of time proclaiming that the presidential race was all but wrapped up and President Barack Obama had won a second term.

Not so fast.

Without question, Mitt Romney’s prospects are dimming by the day. Midweek, six of the latest presidential polls showed Obama leading — or tied with — his rival. The latest Pew Research Center poll showed Obama up by eight big points.

Over at The New York Times, polling expert Nate Silver rated the president’s re-election chances at more than 75 percent. In Wisconsin, Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson said he was suddenly trailing his Democratic rival because of Romney’s faltering bid.

“If your standard-bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it’s going to reflect on the down ballot (candidates),” Thompson said.

And the news media have already started writing what amounts to obituaries for Romney’s campaign. Politico’s extended treatise was titled “Inside the campaign: How Romney stumbled.”

This column isn’t intended to forecast a winner. But it is intended to inject a note of caution into the sudden blitz of Democratic exuberance. I’ve covered a lot of races, and I know this: There’s time for another momentum shift.

But that’s my gut talking. Let’s look at some numbers.

By week’s end, Gallup was the one pollster that had the race once again deadlocked at 47 percent. A survey from Gallup and USA Today out Wednesday showed that more than one-fifth of swing-state voters were saying they still might change their minds.

Among voters in those 12 key states, Obama led by an oh-so-narrow 48 to 46 percent.

That doesn’t sound like much wiggle room to me.

Also this week, NBC/Wall Street Journal pollster Bill McInturff, a Republican, forecast that the race is bound to be close. He said the 2012 poll numbers were strikingly similar to those in 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election over John Kerry by 51 to 48 percent.

In the same poll in 2004, 39 percent said they believed the country was on the right track — the same as now. Some 43 percent in 2004 thought the economy would improve in the next year, compared with 42 percent now. Bush’s favorable-unfavorable rating at the time was 49-45 percent, compared with Obama’s 48-42.

“’04 was really close,” McInturff said on NBC. “And that’s how we should continue to think about the campaign.”

Then there’s the economy. Unemployment still tops 8 percent. A record number of Americans are on food stamps, while the median net worth of families is at a 20-year low.

More job numbers are on the way between now and Election Day. Can Romney still win? You bet. Am I holding my breath? No, sir.

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