I have been in politics way too long to take anything for granted in this presidential race, and I am way too superstitious to assume a victory no matter what. The strongly anti-Obama vote remains at a rock solid 45 percent no matter what ridiculous things Romney says or does, and there will be a few percent undecided right to the end, which means Romney will hang relatively close through the last weeks of this race. By everything I can tell, including both public and private polls I have seen, this is a 4 point race, and that is still close. World events, a weak Obama debate performance or some other kind of mistake, or any number of other things might still put Romney even closer before it is done.
Having said all that, Romney is in a world of hurt, primarily because of the way he has defined himself philosophically and values-wise to the American people. He has lost the essential debate in this race, and the Republican base has created a locked box that imprisons him and makes his comeback very difficult. It’s not just that he is down by a few points: the voting dynamics have solidified, and the chances for Romney’s vote to grow are severely limited because the key groups of swing voters really don’t like him. If Romney comes back and wins, it will not be because of Romney, it will be because of something big happening — a major Obama mistake, people falling asleep in the Get-Out-The-Vote operations, a huge international or economic crisis — that Romney has nothing to do with. Romney’s chances for winning are now out of his hands, so all the stories about whether the Romney campaign will ever get its act together are irrelevant. With a big Obama campaign mistake or an earth-shaking world event, Romney could still win this election, but he and his party have lost the debate over values, policy, and the future of the country.
Given that, we Democrats and progressives should — without losing focus for a moment on turning out the vote and finishing off the re-election job — begin thinking about the implications of a second term for Obama, and how we can begin working now to make it successful for most of the American people. That analysis needs to be done both on the political and economic side of things.
When it comes to politics, naturally the big story is the nature of the next Congress. Because we are winning the central debate, our numbers have gone up in competitive House and Senate races throughout the country. We need to keep driving home our winning argument about community, investing in our people, and fighting for a strong middle class — and we need to do everything possible(except in a few swing states and districts that lean Republican) to nationalize this election. (more…)