New clouds have moved over Romney's moon. The latest polling from Florida, Ohio and Virginia indicate that President Obama has lately opened a bit of a lead among likely voters. Note the "among likely voters." It's important because these are different from overall polls; political pros pay more attention to them because such polls have proven over the years to be more indicative of where a race is (as a snapshot of a specific time) than more general polls.
These polls are important, too, because they are in key - possibly decisive - "swing states." This year it is unlikely that either candidate can win if he were to lose all three of these states. And, in Romney's case, he probably has to carry Florida in order to win. (Obama's chances would be severely damaged if he didn't carry Florida, but he still would be more likely to survive than Romney would if he were to lose Florida.)
Anyway, this is troubling news for Romney, and Romney and his staff know it. But it does not mean that Romney's chances are doomed:
1. There is still a while to go. The heartwood of the race is still ahead and things can change - especially if something unexpected arises.
2. Even the best of polls can be misleading at this point.
3. Romney has a sizable money advantage over Obama. He can (and likely will) unleash a tsunami of telling (including much highly negative) advertising against Obama in the coming weeks. Lots of people say they hate and are "turned off" by negative ads, but the past record shows that such ads can turn races around at every level.
4. There are still 3 Presidential "debates" (and one Vice-Presidential) to come. Who knows? Romney could score in one or more, and/or Obama could hurt himself in them. Romney will go into them with low expectations; if he is just better than expected he will help himself.
5. Jobs, the economy and how people feel about the economy's future remains the most important issues-cluster of the campaign. The stock market and the percentage of people (in polls) feeling "the country is on the right track" are both up: advantage Obama - for now. But for how long? Any bump, blip, slip or downdraft, much less a drastic negative change, might reverse Romney's outlook.
6. Romney's base is motivated and activated, mostly by the core of supporters who absolutely detest Obama. They'll turn out to vote against Obama, even though they may not love Romney. Obama's base may be less motivated, especially if they get over confident. Turnout appears to be more of a question-mark for Obama than Romney. To put it another way: if Obama gets a high turnout he may well win, but turnout could be a problem for him.
At this particular moment, when Romney is in the midst of a difficult streak--some of it brought on by himself, such as with the Libya-Egypt mistake, any objective analysis of the race leads to an 'advantage Obama" conclusion. But that may not last. My personal judgement is still that Romney can win. I am not predicting he will win, but rather just saying I think he still can.