President Barack Obama is over the magic 50 percent mark and tops Gov. Mitt Romney among likely voters by 9 to 12 percentage points in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University/ CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll released today.
Voters in each state see President Obama as better than Gov. Romney to handle the economy, health care, Medicare, national security, an international crisis and immigration. Romney ties or inches ahead of the president on handling the budget deficit.
Matching Obama against Romney in each of these key states - no one has won the White House since 1960 without taking at least two of them...
In this race, Mitt Romney needs -- absolutely needs -- Ohio and Florida to win. MSNBC's First Read notes that Romney begins a bus tour today that "has to do more than stop the bleeding for Romney in Ohio; it has to be the beginning of a turnaround for him in this state. Losing Ohio isn’t checkmate, but it’s close." Losing Florida and Ohio? That is checkmate -- and Mitt can't tour both states at once. So he seems to be piling all his chips on Ohio.
Publicly, Team Romney's trying to put a happy face on the situation. Asked yesterday about poor polling numbers in Ohio, Romney's political director Rich Beeson said, "There's still 42 days to go. We are by any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio. And the Obama campaign is going to have some problems there."
That's not the case anymore. Quinnipiac has Romney down 10 in the Buckeye state, 53%-43%. They don't put out polls with a margin of error spanning ten freakin' points. The margin of error for this particular poll is, in fact, 2.9%. Romney is not any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio. And he's going to have some problems there.
All of this means that the debates are going to be must-see TV. Team Romney, already scrambling to make up lost ground, will shift into panic mode. Mitt's wild charges and ridiculous falsehoods may become wilder and more ridiculous. And it will happen at the worst possible time.
I say that because the debates were where I expected his campaign of lies to unravel anyway. It's one thing to put out insane lies in a stump speech or a thirty second ad, it's another to do it to your opponent's face. I have no doubt that Romney will lie shamelessly, but this time those lies will be answered immediately.
And that's really what began to sink Romney after the conventions. The Democrats wisely used their convention, scheduled after the RNC, to rebut Republican lies. In any debate, the person with the final word is in the strongest position to make a convincing case -- it's one of the reasons why the defense argues last in a criminal trial. Democrats (and Bill Clinton in particular) used that position well. They answered GOP lies and made a case for Democratic governance. As a result, Romney's polling began to crash and he's never really recovered.
It's normally the case that the candidate down in the polls during the debates puts out a call for more debates. Mitt Romney may just break with that tactic, because I doubt it would serve him well.