Is Romney Doomed? Not Yet

It's been a disastrous month, but the underlying numbers still suggest that this will be a close race to the end

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign fundraiser in Del Mar, Calif., on September 22, 2012.

Yes, Mitt Romney has not had the best of Septembers. From Clint Eastwood’s empty chair to the private fund-raiser remarks that failed to remain private, it’s clear that the Republican nominee would prefer to forget the recent past and press on.

What’s unclear is whether these moments spell the end of Romney’s challenge. President Obama’s re-election looks more likely today than it did, say, three months ago, and the political class has come very close to declaring Romney’s bid over.

(PHOTOS: On the Campaign Trail With Romney)

No incumbent president, however, can take much comfort from the numbers that measure Americans’ attitudes about the general state of the nation. By a 54–42% margin, Americans believe the economy is getting worse, not better. The Real Clear Politics average of right track/wrong track polling shows that Americans think we’re on the wrong track by a margin of 55.3-38.5. And President Obama’s approval rating is at about 50% — almost a mathematical manifestation of an American ambivalence about the president and the future.

I think, then, that what little evidence there is suggests the race will remain close even to the end. Despite the technology, despite the microtargeting, despite everything, there is still truth in Theodore H. White’s observation that elections are decided privately: Voting, White wrote of Election Day 1960, “is invisible, for it is the essence of the act that as it happens it is a mystery in which millions of people each fit one fragment of a total secret together, none of them knowing the shape of the whole.”

(MORE: Why Mobile Technology Means Elections Will Never be the Same)

Though Romney has failed to provide much more than an “I’m not Obama” argument for himself—a message that is not resonating in the way Boston must have thought it would — the challenger is still operating in an anti-incumbent environment. According to Gallup, Romney’s “47%” comments will make no difference in the decisions of a majority of independent voters (53%). In addition, Gallup has found that “Registered voters in key 2012 election swing states remain closely divided in their presidential vote preferences, with 48% supporting President Barack Obama and 46% Mitt Romney. Other than a nine-point lead for Obama in March, the two candidates have been essentially tied in the swing states throughout the campaign.” Another key finding: “Twenty-two percent of swing-state voters are either undecided (5%) or say there is at least a slight chance (17%) they may change their vote preference between now and the election, underscoring the competitiveness of the election and the uncertainty about its ultimate outcome.”

(MORE: Meacham: The Real Difference Between Obama and Romney)

Americans are unhappy, nervous, edgy. Even given Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate, such broad discontent is likely to make for a long election night for all of us.

MORE: Read TIME’s cover story, “The Mind of Mitt.”

 

77 comments
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Bob Wise
Bob Wise

We know the economy sucks - and we blame Congress, especially McConnell. It's not so much about Romney. Of course, if he were inspirational, that would be a little different, but we'd have to be quite taken with Romney to overcome our sense that Obama can't be judged with so much obstructionism rampant.

We'll be voting for our individual representatives according to our political bent. For president, we'll be voting against Congress and for its victim, President Obama.

They made him a victim. McConnell did.

Chiku Misra
Chiku Misra

Romney is just very insincere, always.  He says the British aren't ready for the Olympics, then after media uproar and a rebuke from all of England, says they are completely ready.  He writes off 47 percent of the nation as non-entities, then after a media firestorm, he says he cares about 100 percent of the people.  It's all very transparent, third-rate, amateur political posturing.  He's not even very good at it, it's a wonder he's the nominee.  The Republicans really had some garbage to sift through during their primary process and all it was able to come up with was Romney.  Obama should start thinking about his second term and who he will blame stuff on.

Palladia
Palladia

Romney was simply the least-bad of a very poor crop.  The old-line Republicans are probably turning over in their graves at this spectacle.

George McDowell
George McDowell

He's mentally incompetent following in the tradition of Dan Quayle, Bush Jr., and Sarah Palin. This career corporate criminal is going down in flames like Valujet 592. He's continuing to open windows to let more air in to fuel the fire with each gaffe.

Chiku Misra
Chiku Misra

all the people you listed are absolute comedy gold, and although they are all poorly-read, lazy delegaters who have coasted thru life on looks, family name, wealth or all three.......still romney is a lot less likeable than those three.  i think romney has developed that elusive quality that al gore had.  people don't want to see him as the president.  he is smarmy.

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

"Is Romney doomed ? "  Hmmm... Looking that way.

Peace...

Chernynkaya
Chernynkaya

I've got to go with Nate Silver: 

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.n...

Obama is currently up by 3.7%. No candidate in the past 50 years has lost a lead that big.No candidate with more than 47% of the vote in late September hasever lost. Obama is currently  at 48.3%.Big changes in the final month aren't impossible, but they've gotten rarer in the past 20 years.It's not true that undecided voters tend to break for the challenger in the last few weeks of a race.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Why does Mitt want to be president?  Seriously, why does he?  I can't figure it out.

TConservative
TConservative

 Because he cares about America

Palladia
Palladia

How do you demonstrate that "care?"

He has changed his mind on any position he's held with reference to politics.  If he were ever right in the first place, why would he do that?  If he was wrong in the first place, what makes him correct in later changes?

He knows very little about America in any practical sense: he's been insulated from it by money, all of his life.  His staterments show this.  "Care?"  What does that word even mean, with reference to Mitt Romney?

pkbishop
pkbishop

The Republicans are counting on voter fraud  and disenfranchisement.

Brian Lennon
Brian Lennon

After Romney's comments on aircraft design, I checked it out in the LA Times. It isn't a fake. He did say all that after there was a problem on his wife's plane. Two things spring to mind.

One is Arnold Toynbee's observations of how in a decaying civilisation, one that has lost its way, the creative minority responsible for the creative triumphs of that civilisation are replaced by the dominant minority which is all about money and power. And that the dominant minority is pretty damn thick.

The second thought being that he is not someone you would put in an exit aisle seat.

Geonew
Geonew

 By definition our nation is a decaying culture.   Our infrastructure is decaying rapidly while our nation's "investments" are drained away in military adventurism and manipulations of financiers.  By many yardsticks other nations do things better: education, health care, business/government partnerships, etc. and etc.   Now the Dems don't escape some of the blame, but the ideology thrust since Reagan has been a shift to the Right.   Romney is just a financier whose foreign policy advisers are Neocons.   The "money and power" thing is also the hallmark of a Third World nation where fewer and fewer people control the resources and wealth of a nation to the eventual deterioration of the entire society.

Palladia
Palladia

I definitely agree with your second thought.  In any emergency, I would not expect Mr. Romney to be a hero. 

TConservative
TConservative

 He already is a hero.

Palladia
Palladia

On what basis is Romney a "hero?"

On the basis of his military exploits?  Oh, wait, he didn't. . .

On the basis of his governorship in Massachusetts?  He's down by forty points to Obama there.  They ought to know.

On the basis of his not bothering to be there beside his wife when her horse competed in the Olympics?  Why should he care about that?

On the basis of his tying his crated dog to the top of his car?  That was such bad judgment that I can't believe it, and even worse, he told that story on himself: a demonstration of lack of awareness: he had no idea how it would look to others. 

On the basis of his repeated change of position on pretty much everything?

On the basis of his bullying a fellow student?  Showed his true colors.

He's not a "hero."  He's merely a feckless rich kid.

orlandojon
orlandojon

The media is in full panic mode, great for a laugh. It's 1980 all over again

Bhujangarao Inaganti
Bhujangarao Inaganti

There is already an opinion outside that how dumb americans are to elect Republicans to the high posts during Bush's tenure and now Romney proves that opinion may be right. With all the gaffes of him for his experience and age he doesn't deserve to be in the field even. Obama has given a good administration in righting the mess left by Bush during the last 3 1/2 years and a second term will enable him to complete the recovery.

armyvet129
armyvet129

 Nice headline Democrat rag. That's like saying "Your mom died, well she didn't but she might". Ignorance at its finest on display here.

kriskros12
kriskros12

Seriously? I cant believe people think Romney even stands a chance. This country is not ready for an intelligent president. Just ask the GOP!

Obama 2012

Romney 1040

Palladia
Palladia

This country, at present, HAS an intelligent president.  Too bad about Romney.

Matthew Murray
Matthew Murray

TWO (2) CAMPS THIS ELECTION: [1] one camp believes food, shelter, clothing, education and health care are RIGHTS...and even though half the nation disagrees with them...the believe the other half should pay for THEIR entitlements (by force..in the name of "fairness" of course)...and the reality that we MAKE $2.1T and SPEND $3.8T will never catch up to us.   [2] the other camp believes those things are NOT rights...in ANY constitution...nor in ANY nation on the planet...for a reason. If they were rights then all anyone need do is sit around and wait for someone else to pay for their entitlements...so why work at all? They also know that 47% truly ARE dependent on govt.... in one way, shape or form.... (via food stamps, welfare, disability, social security, subsidized rents, subsidized education,etc)...and the TRUTH hurts like it or not. 

....just ask Europe how the "entitlement" mentality worked out?  Like it or not is irrelevant...reality WILL eventually catch up.  Any first grader will tell you  $2.1T in and $3.8T out is patently absurd and imminent failure.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

In fact, Obama is ahead not tied in swing states Ohio and Wisconsin.

tsigili
tsigili

Romney is the alternative to voting into office a dictator, who will try to take over the country by 2016.

That is the real decision. freedom or dictatorship.

Palladia
Palladia

"Take over the country?"  What are you smoking?  President Obama has already been in office for nearly four years.   Have you noticed any coup?

Chiku Misra
Chiku Misra

we all know he is waiting until his second term to start the revolution.

Palladia
Palladia

When you "know" something, it is susceptible to proof.   Whacha got in that line to support this assertion?

Michael Strawn
Michael Strawn

What a waste of space; a terrible article that does nothing more than spout a few polling results.  If you want actual insight into the likelihood of Romney winning read Nate  Silver's 538 blog.  This is a joke.  

JHoughton1
JHoughton1

Someone help me with this: back in July, there was a flurry of speculation that Mitt Romney availed himself of the Swiss Bank Account Amnesty extended in 2009 to wealthy Americans who had "failed to report" their offshore Swiss earnings, as required by the tax code. I never saw the issue laid to rest, but it just kind of went away. Is this no longer considered one of the likely reasons Mitt refuses, despite all the political grief he's getting, to release his tax returns?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Actually I suspect that it will pop up in a couple of weeks as an October Surprise possibly with some leaked IRS forms that will firmly point that Mittens is not only a tax evader but also an amnesty recipient.