Niall Ferguson, writing at the Daily Beast, wonders why Obama is winning:
First, the economy. It's growing at a lousy 2 percent. Unemployment is stuck above 8 percent. Manufacturing just contracted for the third straight month. Consumer confidence is sliding. Nearly 47 million Americans are on food stamps. And we're heading for a fiscal cliff.
Now, the polls. According to The New York Times, President Obama is set to win 51 percent of the popular vote and 311 electoral college votes, including those of key swing states like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. He has a 3 in 4 chance of being reelected.
If Mitt Romney were the kind of guy people felt sorry for, you'd feel sorry for him.
So what's the explanation? I can think of four possibilities.
Explanation one: I am lying to you. The economy is doing great.
Explanation two: People aren't telling the truth to the pollsters. The deciding factor in this election will be whether or not a relatively small slice of the electorate-suburban, middle-class voters in a handful of states-deserts the president.
Explanation three: People vote more prospectively than retrospectively. "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" was the question Ronald Reagan asked voters back in 1980. It's the question Republicans started asking again last month, and for a moment the Democratic spin-doctors didn't have a good answer. It took Roger Altman (one of the president's dwindling band of supporters on Wall Street) to come up with one. Sure, things have been bad-but they are about to get better as housing bounces back and the United States fracks its way to energy independence. So the real question voters should ask themselves is: "Will I be better off in four years' time than I am right now?"
Explanation four: The economy isn't the No. 1 issue, despite what people say. The more I watch of this election, the more I incline toward this last explanation.
Ferguson cites Romney's lack of likeability, his Mormonism, and abortion as key reasons for Obama's current lead. What Ferguson doesn't mention is that the Obama campaign has successfully made Romney the issue, and not the economy - so far.
Romney is just beginning to crank up an ad bltz that is astonishing in its breadth and scope. Voter outreach by the Romney campaign is in its beginning stages. In another month, this avalanche will have closed the gap between the two candidates and we are likely to be almost exactly where we were before the conventions.
Then it will be the debates that matter. It is here that Obama will be unable to avoid questions about his policies and the weak economy. Will the voters buy Obama's explanations with Romney attacking and counterattacking on the same stage?
I think Ferguson is paying far too much attention to atmospherics. The race will be decided on the basis of which candidate will voters think can improve the economy. Abortion, Mormonism even likeability have never been the decisive factor in any election. It's a mystery why anyone would think any differently this time around.
Given the president's record, it will be a tough sell for him.