Mitt Romney unofficially clinched the Republican presidential nomination yesterday after winning the Texas primary, which gave him more than the 78 delegates he needed to reach his party’s “magic number” – 1,144 delegates – to win the GOP nomination.
While Romney certainly faced a tumultuous primary race since last June when he declared his candidacy, the resilience of his campaign has been nothing short of impressive, as he is now on fairly equal footing with Obama as he enters the general election.
Romney’s ability to unify party elected officials, activists and donors quickly and relatively smoothly in the past six weeks since he emerged as the party’s likely nominee reflects a continuation of momentum that has been building in his favor.
Indeed, Romney’s campaign has taken a definitive upswing in the past month while Obama’s standings are faltering. The President’s job approval is slipping below 50 percent, as Rasmussen’s daily index had him at 49% approve, 50% disapprove. Voters are split on whether they think Obama deserves to be re-elected – a Politico poll earlier this month found that 43% say they will vote to re-elect him, while 42% say they will vote to replace him.
Further, latest tracking polls show that Obama’s lead in horserace matchups against Romney is eroding. Gallup has Obama’s lead at just two points, and Rasmussen Reports has it at one point. This marks a substantial change from the seven-point lead Obama held in the Fox News poll conducted two weeks ago, and the eight-point lead he had over Romney at the beginning of May in the Associated Press poll.
And Romney is not just closing the gap nationally; he is making progress on a state-by-state basis as well. The electoral map is moving in Romney’s favor, as recent polling shows that he has narrowed the gap or taken the lead in key swing states such as Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Romney has led Obama in Missouri consistently, with Rasmussen polling last month having him at a three-point lead. In Florida, the Quinnipiac poll released last week had Romney leading Obama, 47% to 41%. Polls in North Carolina have Romney with as much as an eight-point lead, 51% to 43% by Rasmussen Reports, while the two most recently released surveys had Romney leading by one and two points respectively. And in Virginia, Obama’s lead has been cut in half to just four points, according to the recent NBC News/Marist poll, and the Real Clear Politics average has Obama leading the state by just 2.5 points.
Romney’s success in considerably improving critical head-to-head match-ups reflects a strong rebound from a bruising primary process by the presumptive Republican nominee, and a solid consolidation of the conservative base. Further, Obama’s inability to top 50 percent of voters in these swing states shows that vulnerability remains.
If Romney’s momentum continues and he captures these states, he would have more than 230 Electoral College votes. This would certainly bring him within reach of the 270 votes needed for victory, with a number of swing states hanging in the balance. States like Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado will be in play for Romney as well, thus allowing for numerous combinations for Romney to get past the 270 votes needed.
While it is too soon to tell who will win the presidency, voters have made it clear they feeling strongly about at least one thing: Bain Capital is not what the election should be fought over. Rather, voters want to hear about the future of America; ideas for creating jobs, rebuilding the economy, balancing the budget, and reforming entitlement programs.
If Romney capitalizes on his momentum and addresses these issues directly, he could gain a decisive advantage in a race that is neck-and-neck.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the recently released, “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield).
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DouglasESchoen