The storm for a week diverted attention away from the growing Mitt Romney wave, and for a time highlighted the president, replete in bomber jacket, as presidential in directing relief efforts, as news understandably went silent on the huge Romney crowds and another dismal jobs report, and turned instead to administration officials appearing engaged and busy — all critical for both turnout and a key 3—5 percent of the voters who probably have not yet made up their minds. It is hard to calibrate the effect, but Romney seemed last week to be slipping 1–3 percent in many of the polls.
But after a week, the volatile ebb and flow is changing one final time — as millions were left without power and help, the Libyan catastrophe won’t go away as voters are beginning to grasp that it was the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 (and largely avoidable), and the president foolishly reverted to his customarily divisive form in revving up his base to go to the polls in the spirit of “revenge.”
The result is that Romney’s October momentum seems like it is resuming, as he appears far more presidential than the incumbent, who is running as a challenger on the premise that he has not been president the last four years. Obama’s tenor is reminiscent of a desperate Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush who in the last 72 hours of their campaigns could feel their presidencies slipping away, without the ability to do much about it. In contrast, Romney’s crowds and buzz are far more reminiscent of a down-the-stretch upbeat 1980 Reagan, 1992 Clinton — and 2008 Obama — whom you could feel in the last few hours of the campaigns were happy warriors surging as never before.
In truth, throughout this entire hare-and-tortoise campaign, Romney has been steady, disciplined, and focused, and has dealt well with surprises — from the 47 percent video release to Hurricane Sandy — something not true of the herky-jerky president, at least if we look at the nature of the pro-Obama ads, the stump-speech rhetoric, and the crudity of all sorts of surrogates and supporters. Apparently, Obama decided that he could win only by going negative and talking about hypotheticals rather than the last four years — and so may thereby have ensured that he will lose. For most voters, it is just too much for a bright and shining Messiah to end up as an all-too-real Nixon.