Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
This was supposed to be the weekend of the final push. All the media attention was focused on the campaign with no other distractions. Now Sandy still dominates the news and the campaign closing drives are the second lead. While outside of the East Coast it is only news, in swing states in the East, Sandy still dominates everything. Human suffering and personal tragedies are more compelling than political scoring. This leads to a reality check which in truth was probably the basis of the entire Obama campaign. Stay ahead, albeit with smaller margins than 2008, and keep up the pressure. Build the best ground game possible and have it in place months before the election. Spend money on ads but GOTV would be the key. Now, if Obama wins, it will demonstrate that you can lose the battle for the airwaves, suffer an embarrassing debate fiasco, but mount the best ground game. Finally, at the end of the day, Presidents control the news cycle (thank you Sandy) not challengers.
Obama’s forces are not running cocky at all; in fact they are smartly running scared. They even convinced Senator Carl Levin–a leading Democratic leader in the Senate especially on defense matters and a very committed and involved Jew to violate his entire traditional modus operandi. Levin hates fund-raising even for himself, and personally detests campaigning and the rough and tumble of electioneering, yet he is out with a last minute campaign ad (letter) to Jewish voters urging those in the pro-Israel community to support the President. (The ad has intentionally not been linked.)
In terms of numbers, Romney can still win and may well win the popular vote given the likelihood that some of the red states will be overwhelmingly pro-Romney. To capture the electoral votes in the swing states Romney will need all the election gods to line up perfectly. Nothing is over yet but Romney may just need too many ducks to line up in row to make it happen. Romney has brought the campaign back from the pits before the debate when Obama was controlling the battleground states. As a result of a strong first debate, many of the swing states are now within the margin of statistical error. The problem is that not all of them are that close, he has not really brought other states into the battle, and he still needs to sweep virtually all of them to win.
***There is one very early post-election footnote which could move into play almost immediately after the election, should Romney lose. Chris Christie is so confident and so self-assured, that he could literally take command of the leadership of the Republican Party. After his bi-partisan play with Obama following Sandy, Christie could embarrass the congressional Republicans to work aggressively with the President during the lame duck congressional session to avoid the critical fiscal and budgetary fiasco waiting at the end of the year. It would be unprecedented, but Christie is riding so high he has nothing to lose. It also might give some of the few remaining Republican moderates a chance to try to return their party to its historical political home.