Ever since the president’s Disaster in Denver, Mitt Romney’s fans have been talking about “Mittmentum.” There’s been so many ear-to-ear grins among Republicans it looks like a tooth whitener commercial at the RNC.
But can Romney really win?
The truth is, he’s got a steep enough hill to climb that those grins might be exceedingly premature.
Sure, President Barack Obama’s comatose first debate performance threw the race for a loop, and threw the president’s seemingly high-flying campaign into a tailspin. Obama went into that night with a significant and growing lead in almost every national and swing state poll. Then, in the course of 90 minutes, he destroyed them all.
It wasn’t just Obama’s Night of the Living Dead appearance that killed him in the court of public opinion. Romney was on fire. He knew he had to turn things around. And he knew he needed more than just a solid display to do it. He needed to win. Decisively. And he did.
In a matter of days, he had erased Obama’s lead. Within a week, he was leading in some polls. Days after that, he was ahead in most.
Now, three weeks later, it appears the rocket engine powering Romney’s surge has finally sputtered, and the man from Massachusetts’ campaign has stopped its ascent. But with less than two weeks to go to Election Day, the race is so close it’s impossible to call.
But, again: Can Romney really win?
The final result, of course, is more than just polls. It’s more than just people sitting in the comfort of their homes, answering the phone and saying, “Yep, if the election were held today, I’d vote for him.”
Still, even if every one of those “likely voters” become actual voters, Romney knows that he’s got an extremely narrow – and difficult – path to victory.
It’s simple math. Voters don’t really elect the president. They deliver Electoral College votes. Whoever gets 270 of those wins.
Looking at most analysts’ maps right now, the battle is really about seven states. Most of the rest are either solidly or strongly leaning one way or the other. If those all fall the way most folks think they will, then it’s all about the ones still up in the air. Those swing states will decide the outcome.
Obama, by most tallies, can win re-election simply by taking Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. Romney needs more. He needs Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, plus one more.
And Hispanics may very well be the deciding factor in every one of the states Romney needs to win. That’s got to be a scary prospect for him. Most polls have consistently shown Obama winning the Latino vote by an average of three-to-one over his rival.
Ohio is the key. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.
That’s why both candidates have spent much of the past week bouncing around the Buckeye State, trying to mobilize the faithful and sway the undecided.
But even there, even though Hispanics only make up 3.2 percent of the electorate, they could decide the outcome.
Right now, polls put Obama ahead there by barely 2 percent. That’s well within the margin of error on polls. But if Latinos come to the polls in significant numbers, that’s more than the margin. If they vote the way polls say they will, Obama wins.
“Although Ohio may not be a Latino-rich state, a state with two, three percent of the electorate that’s Latino could, in fact, make a difference in a state that’s evenly divided,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said Wednesday as the organization released an analysis of Hispanic voting projections.
The same is true, perhaps even more so, in Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, where the large Latino populations are sure to impact the final result – if they turn out.
The only question is, will they?