I’ve been on a much-needed vacation for a few days and have taken a break from the grind of national politics.
Having brought myself up to speed, I think there are three dynamics now at work:
1. The Ryan VP pick was brilliant. In one move Romney solidified his base, drew a strong policy contrast and also highlighted the crazy and erratic behavior of Joe Biden. Paul Ryan is many things, but even his enemies admit him to be smart and serious. No one takes Biden seriously.
What is more, Ryan puts Wisconsin in play, forcing Obama to play defense here as well as in Michigan. While the conventional wisdom is that Florida is at risk, Ryan’s mother lives there and older voters are likely to be far more sympathetic to his reasoned, number-laden arguments than the blow-dried airheads of the media. All of which is to say: He’s got a powerful argument to make and his audience is receptive to it.
2. The Obama campaign is in total disarray. The media are pulling for him as never before, but they no longer have the influence to control the campaign, they only diminish their own importance. From the “dump Biden” rumors of the past week to the “you didn’t build that” debacle, they are stumbling from one self-inflicted disaster to another.
The economy is in crisis, gas is through the roof and the president wants to talk about Seamus the Dog? Seriously?
3. It is now Romney’s race to lose. None of the polls show Obama above 50 percent and many show his approval and likeability steadily falling. A preference cascade is building against him and the more he tries to be hip and cool, the more trivial a figure he appears.
Tying it all together is the fact that in politics as in sports and war, momentum is the key. Right now Romney has it and Obama doesn't. Moreover, the underlying factors – the economy, unemployment, the growth of our national debt – all favor Romney. For the first time in his career, Obama must face a hostile electorate.
Actually, that's not strictly true – he faced one in 2010 (albeit not directly) – and he did not do well.