"Who has the momentum in the race for the White House, President Barack Obama or GOP challenger Mitt Romney?" asks Gregory Wallace at CNN. "Each campaign says they do, and are seeking to impress upon reporters that point." The polls provide some support for each camp: Obama is leading in enough swing states to win the electoral college while Romney surged in the national polls to take a slight lead after the Denver debate (Real Clear Politics now has the candidates tied at 47.6 percent). That split between the state and national polls is vexing to "would-be prognosticators" like RCP's Sean Trende and FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, says Ross Douthat at The New York Times. But it's a gift to democracy — and partisans on each side. "Both Republicans and Democrats will head to the voting booth next week clutching something almost as precious as the franchise itself — a reason to believe." Here are six signs that each side is right — three points for Romney winning in the final six days of the race, and three for Obama:
Mittmentum is alive and well
1. Romney is now contesting blue states
Team Romney's Exhibit A for its momentum in the final stretch is that it is making a play for traditionally Democratic states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. "When you look at the issues in Pennsylvania, when you look at the absentee ballot numbers that are playing out there," Romney's political director, Rich Beeson, said Wednesday, "Pennsylvania is a place that we decided to wade into as a path to 300 electoral votes." And Team Obama is being forced to spend money there and in other one-time "locked down, safe states," added senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden. "I think that shows that they're playing defense, whereas when we've gone in with resources to many states, it's because we're playing offense, that we have an expanded map now to get to... our electoral of 270."
2. He's coasting on momentum from the Denver debate
The first debate, which allowed voters to meet the real Romney instead of the "monster" depicted in a summer of Obama attack ads, was "a tipping point" in the race, says Dick Morris at The Hill. And Romney has been building a head of steam ever since. Voters have discovered that Obama has no plan and no message, and have grown to know — and to like — Romney. That's moved the battle from swing states to blue states, and it's possible that we could see "the Romney momentum grow and wash into formerly safe Democratic territory in New Jersey and Oregon." At this rate, Romney is heading for a landslide.
3. The math adds up for a Romney win
Let's face it: This election "comes down to numbers," says Karl Rove at The Wall Street Journal. And "from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney." Obama is underperforming in early and absentee balloting, according to well-informed Republicans, and he's losing among independents in Ohio and other key states. And even "the anecdotal and intangible evidence — from crowd sizes to each side's closing arguments — give the sense that the odds favor Mr. Romney." I predict a 51 percent to 48 percent victory, with "Romney carrying at least 279 electoral college votes, probably more."
We have B.O.mentum
1. Hurricane Sandy is wind in the president's sails
For all its destruction and displacement, "Hurricane Sandy has given Barack Obama a lift beneath his wings," says Roger Simon at Politico. The public gives him high marks for his response to the disaster, and it has "provided him with one thing he has most needed since the first debate: The opportunity to look presidential." I can even see Obama "getting a significant boost from a Republican Governor who also happens to be a chief Romney surrogate," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Gov. Chris Christie's post-Sandy love-in with Obama might not win the president many votes in Ohio or Virginia, but it could easily sideline his challenger "just enough to prevent Mitt Romney from crossing the finish line."
2. Obama is gaining or maintaining in the swing states
Team Obama is so dismissive of Romney's touted ad buys in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that senior Obama adviser David Axelrod bet MSNBC's Joe Scarborough that he'd shave the mustache he has worn for 40 years if Romney wins any of them. The only reason Romney is making these desperate feints, Obama strategists argue, is that the polls show must-win Ohio slipping out of reach, and he's not winning any of the key states up for grabs. "There is no Romney momentum in the battleground states, only smoke and mirrors," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Wednesday. "We have the math; they have the myth."
3. And edging ahead nationally
Romney is running out of time to shift his poll numbers in Ohio and other swing states, so the best argument for him winning at this point is that the state polling is wrong, and the national polls showing him ahead will prevail. The problem there, says Reuters' Mark Felsenthal, is that most national polls have found "the race effectively tied," with Obama gaining ground. Obama is also winning comfortably in the online-betting markets, and among "a group of people who have accurately predicted the winner of the popular vote in the past four presidential elections" — the American people, says Kevin Robillard at Politico. The polls may be tied, but when it comes to who voters expect to win, Obama is crushing Romney by 54 percent to 32 percent (Gallup) and 53 percent to 29 percent (Reuters/Ipsos).