With the third and final debate in our review mirror and only two weeks to go until voters cast their ballots on Nov. 6, the New York Times sets the scene this morning: It's Mitt Romney's perceived momentum versus President Obama's campaign machinery coming down the home stretch.
Though polls have shown a mix of results, it is more often than not Mr. Romney who is on the upward trajectory, if not always overtaking Mr. Obama, then, at least, cutting into his leads among important constituencies. ...
Mr. Obama will spend the next two weeks pitting the campaign machinery he built to push his voters to the polls against Mr. Romney’s sense of momentum and new signs of hope in states that were tilting away from him only a month ago. ...
Heading into the final phase of their advertising war, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama have contrasting imperatives. Mr. Romney is seeking to win over the last remaining undecided voters—many of them 2008 Obama supporters—by presenting himself as a credible president ready to work in the bipartisan manner swing voters crave. Mr. Obama has to keep that from happening.
Recent polling does generally support the newfound sense of momentum that is currently buoying Romney's campaign. One month ago today, the Real Clear Politics average of national polls showed the GOP challenger trailing the president by nearly 4 points, and swing-state polling likewise suggested Obama had a relatively easy path to victory on the electoral map.
But fast-forward a month—past what was widely seen as one major debate victory by Romney and two strong-but-not-necessarily-dominating wins by Obama—and what had looked like an inevitable march to re-election for the president has quickly turned into a race either man could win. Romney currently holds a slim 0.6-point lead over the president in the RCP national average, and—more importantly—has moved a handful of swing-states that had leaned Obama back into the toss-up column. While it is unclear if the Republican's surge in the polls has leveled off, the numbers leave little doubt that Romney has steadily climbed his way back into the race, a fact that has clearly energized his campaign and supporters.
That said, Obama still has the much easier time tracing a path to victory on the Electoral College map, mostly needing to just hold serve to do it. According to RCP, if you remove the toss-ups from the equation (a list that now runs 10 states long), Romney leads, 206 to 201. However, divvy those states up according to the current polling, and Obama crosses the 270-vote threshold with 11 votes to spare.
Romney's most likely path to victory appears to include taking Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and one other battleground state, most likely Colorado. Obama, meanwhile, can wrap things up by grabbing Ohio, Wisconsin, and a third toss-up like Iowa.
Read more of Slate's campaign coverage.