Voting in the 2012 presidential election officially ends three weeks from today. For Team Obama — for the first time in the campaign — I’m guessing there’s a profound hunger for more time, more days, more hours in the day.
Polls generally give Mitt Romney a narrow-verging-on-statistically-significant lead in the overall horse race, with the latest Gallup poll showing the Republican challenger four points ahead and capturing 50% support from voters. That’s a huge milestone.
Barack Obama, meanwhile, continues to lead by thin margins in battleground states that would give him 294 electoral college votes — 24 more than he needs to win a second term. But his “big blue wall”has shrunk dramatically.
If Obama doesn’t change the energy level in the coming week, his strategic advantages in the race may come to look more like a big blue speed bump.
So what does that mean for the second debate?
I think it’s actually a bit more fifty-fifty challenge tonight than most pundits are suggesting. Obama needs to be great. Truly on his game, channeling Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. All at the same time.
But I also think Romney has a big task tonight.
He simply can’t go back to being Boring Romney. He also can’t allow Obama to deligitimize the tax-cutting and job creation plan, cornerstones of his campaign, which have taken significant fire over the last week.
That said, however, the burden is obviously on the president to change the dynamic of the race. For months, the contest seemed to have stabilized with Romney just under water — close, within shouting distance, but not a real threat.
That changed with Obama decided to flop in a nationally televised debate with 70,000,000 people watching.
Obama’s danger is the campaign will find a new kind of equilibrium down the stretch, this time with his own political future sinking fast.
He once described himself as a change agent. For his own sake, he better be right.