[MSNBC's First Read:]
It’s not an even race – Obama’s ahead: The Olympics are wrapping up and, at the end of July, when the Olympics began, we wrote that we were basically at halftime of the general election -- and Obama had a narrow lead. Well, it’s a little bigger than that now. (People may want to quibble, but you can’t dismiss every poll on sampling.) There’s clearly movement toward the president and clearly problems for Romney personally. We had found it in our polling for the last month and it hadn’t shown up everywhere yet. Now it has. The latest evidence: three new polls out today – from CNN, Fox, and Reuters/Ipsos – all showing President Obama leading Romney by seven points or more and at or near 50%. (CNN 52-45%, Fox 49-40%, Reuters/Ipsos 49-42%). What’s more, Romney continues to have an image problem. In CNN, Obama’s fav/unfav is +14, Romney’s -1. And in Fox, Obama’s +12, Romney’s +1. (Ipsos didn’t ask fav/unfav.)
Worse for Mittens, James Downie points out that the economy is actually improving, although not as much as anyone on the left would like. Needless to say, those on the right -- having bet all their stake against America -- do not want to see the economy improve. This likewise puts the Mittenman in a bad position.
"Before this week, Obama’s chances were pretty good, largely because of strong numbers in the swing states. Now the gap is widening. If the economy doesn’t, er, bail Romney out, he will need a brilliant performance in the next few months to win," he writes. "A performance, if the campaign so far is any guide, that Romney doesn’t have in him."
Actually, if history is any guide, Romney has never had it in him. The only reason that he's not a career politician is that he has a lot of trouble winning elections. He failed to unseat Ted Kennedy, won the governorship of Massachusetts, and went on to do not so awfully well in presidential politics. In all the campaigns Mitt Romney has run, exactly one was a winner. This is not a stellar record of accomplishment.
Romney's running mate choice is coming up here pretty quick and that can shake up these numbers. But that would likely be a bounce. For a brief moment, John McCain got ahead of Barack Obama -- before falling even further once everyone realized what a nasty lightweight Sarah Palin was.
And the choice of Palin was the result of one big factor -- panic. Almost-always-wrong pundit William Kristol urged McCain to pick the Queen of the North and McCain listened. Let the record show that listening to Bill Kristol is a very bad idea. But everyone said McCain needed to choose someone who'd shake up the race and McCain took that advice, dialed up to eleven.
This is what conservatives do when they're up against the wall -- they panic. That's why Republicans lost their minds after 9/11 and start torturing people and tapping phones illegally. They really don't seem capable of measured response. I'm not saying that Romney's going to choose some complete nutjob as a running mate -- he probably wont -- but his attacks are going to get more desperate and transparent. See his welfare lie for an example. He won't have to choose a Sarah Palin to lose, he's becoming a Sarah Palin before our very eyes. As Mitt Romney gets deeper in trouble, he runs further to the right.
And running further to the right is running away from the general election voter. Unless Romney can break the cycle, he'll wind up helping Obama win by making a series of boneheaded decisions at the advise of the base.
Can Mitt break the cycle? Like Downie, I just don't think he has it in him.