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The state of the race

October 22, 2012, at 3:17 PM
Republican red fireworks explode behind Mitt Rommney and Paul Ryan drying a Victory Rally in Daytona Beach, Fla. on Oct. 19.

Republican red fireworks explode behind Mitt Rommney and Paul Ryan drying a Victory Rally in Daytona Beach, Fla. on Oct. 19. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On paper, President Obama still has more paths to 270 electoral votes. His firewall, which is more like a rez-de-chaussee of his political strategy, is holding: He leads (still solidly) in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa. From the standpoint of enthusiasm, the electorate is bleeding red. GOP fervor remains undiminished, and it has spread across the battleground states. 

Because (I think) voters process through information very quickly, late enthusiasm, which Romney has, galvanizes undecided voters, who want to be with the winner. I tend to think that truly undecided voters are a tiny slice of the electorate, and that most people who insist they're undecided now are just folks with a partisan complex. They fear that by identifying with a particular candidate, they're identifying with a certain history; being for Obama endorses his take on what happened over the past four years. Being for Romney aligns that voter with the Romney version of recent history. 

I do think that most of Romney's gains have come from Republican-leaning independents who are more comfortable identifying with Romney now, a direct result of his presidential bearing during the first debate. "Chicago" is not panicking because the composition of these new Romney voters is not the composition of the Obama electorate.

A word about strategy: The most interesting number in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has 62 percent of the electorate begging for a major change in policy of the next four years. That number obviously includes Democrats. Right now, Obama's campaign is pounding Mitt Romney for having a plan (fact: he has one) that doesn't add up or furthers the plutocracy. Fine. But the line of attack that Romney is using — that the only thing Barack Obama offers is more of the same — is more damaging, because even a lot of voters who already support President Obama really want to see something different from him. Obama does have a "plan," but his team has decided that it's not a priority right now to communicate it. That may be a mistake.

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