At least so says The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky:
There’s a secret lurking behind everything you’re reading about the upcoming election, a secret that all political insiders know—or should—but few are talking about, most likely because it takes the drama out of the whole business. The secret is the electoral college, and the fact is that the more you look at it, the more you come to conclude that Mitt Romney has to draw an inside straight like you’ve never ever seen in a movie to win this thing. This is especially true now that it seems as if Pennsylvania isn’t really up for grabs. Romney’s paths to 270 are few.
Tomasky does the math and looks at the likelihood of an Obama victory state by state and comes up with the following conclusion:
Obama can lose the big Eastern four—Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida: all of ’em!—and still be reelected.
And barring some huge cataclysm, he’s not losing all four of those states. If he wins even one—say Virginia, the smallest of the four—then Romney has to win Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire; all possible, certainly, but all states where he has been behind, narrowly but consistently, for weeks or months.
The list of states where Obama holds that narrow but consistent lead is long: Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Michigan and Wisconsin are no longer really narrow. Florida is more or less a dead heat. The bottom line is that of the dozen or so key swing states, Romney leads only in one: North Carolina. And that lead developed only over the summer. We’ll see whether the Democrats’ decision to convene in Charlotte has any impact on Romney’s three-point margin......
This is a paradoxical situation that has little or no modern precedent, which makes it hard for people to accept. Liberals are too nervous to think it, reporters too intent on a “down to the wire” narrative, and conservatives too furious and disbelieving, but it’s shaping up to be true: An extremely close election that on election night itself stands a surprisingly good chance of being not that close at all.
While Tomasky may be technically right, Romney's ability to raise money puts all of this into serious doubt. Romney is out raising Obama by a significant margin, and as we've seen in the past, money wins elections. Perhaps I am suffering from liberal nervousness, but when you look at the state of the global economy and understand how volatile it is, you can see how voting data can change as quickly as the markets do. Obama's unpopularity stems largely from the dire state of the economy, and despite there being positive signs every now and then, it is beholden to world events that are out of the President's hands. Today, the Bank of England projected zero growth from the UK economy, while other countries in Europe are feeling the pressure to take bailouts given the state of their finances. If Europe continues to contract, this will have a serious knock on effect on the US economy, giving Romney a greater edge over Obama when it comes to getting the vote out.
There is no doubt that Obama should beat Romney - he's a more consistent, likeable, and above all sane character, and he has (at least in the scheme of things) done a pretty good job in keeping the country afloat after the wreckage of the Bush years. It looks like he has some big advantages this year, but in an era when the economy can disintegrate over night, so too can a President's chances of re-election.