By John Avlon - Draw a line between President Obama’s endorsements by Mayor Bloomberg and The Economist, his post-Sandy stand with Chris Christie and the deployment of Colin Powell ads to the swing states, and you’ll see why the president suddenly has the Big Mo—Moderate Momentum—heading into the pre-election weekend.
Mitt Romney surged in the polls after re-centering his candidacy in the first debate. The return of Moderate Mitt briefly swayed swing voters who voted for Obama in 2008 because of his core promise to bridge the hyper-partisan divides of the Bush years. Those divides have not only persisted but proliferated, leaving Romney able to suddenly (and however improbably) promise that he could be that agent of change. It was an effective pitch as long as there was no reminder of Republican recalcitrance in Congress or memory of the self-described “severe conservative” Mitt Romney who’s been running for president for the past two years.
Ten days ago, when I started out on the CNN Battleground Bus Tour in Florida after the third and final presidential debate, the Romney wave was still cresting. But a week is a long time in politics, and now in Ohio that surge has stalled and the deeper trends from the longer campaign have reasserted themselves.
Certainly, Hurricane Sandy has given the president the opportunity to appear, well, presidential. It has highlighted his cool, pragmatic leadership style—so at odds with the overheated stereotype Republicans try to sell their supporters.
Here was the president suspending his campaign to focus on keeping citizens safe, ordering government agencies to cut through all red tape, and working with a frequent Republican critic, Chris Christie—united in their determination to put politics aside to do the people’s business. It gave rise to an Internet image that rocketed its way through cyber-space because it captured much of the missing hope of this election—echoing the brief moment of national unity after 9/11—and imagining what could occur after November 6th if we return to our senses.
Here in Ohio, there are some tangible signs of the underlying shift. Make no mistake, this election is still very close—but President Obama has maintained a small but steady lead in the polls here. We are deep in the partisan spin cycle that pretends each party has momentum no matter what the polls say—they will latch on to any outlier or cite secret polls or openly muse about a hoped-for Bradley Effect. Logic and perspective left the building a long time ago.
But here’s what we know, at least here in Ohio. Roughly one-quarter of the Buckeye State electorate had voted early as of five days ago, according to the most recent CBS/NY Times poll—and of that significant segment, President Obama was beating Mitt Romney by 60 percent to 34 percent—or a 26-point spread. It’s tough to spin this into good news for the Romney campaign.
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