- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2012

A political tectonic shift is under way. Heading into the final weeks of the presidential campaign, the electoral map is changing decisively. Areas previously thought safe for Barack Obama are becoming competitive, and tossup states are turning into safe havens for Mitt Romney. A month ago, commentators were claiming the roads to victory were closing for the Romney campaign. Now it’s the Obama camp hunkering down to make a last stand around a few critical states.

On Thursday, the RealClearPolitics electoral-vote map gave Mr. Romney the lead for the first time. President Obama had an 88-vote advantage two weeks ago, but now the challenger leads by five. This 93-vote swing took place chiefly because four states on the Great Lakes — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin — changed from “leaning Obama” to tossups. This combined 64-vote loss significantly broadened the territory the Obama team needs to contest.

Last week, Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos took criticism for saying Mr. Romney had a lock on Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, worth a collective 57 electoral votes. Today, that is orthodoxy. The New York Times’ Nate Silver, who still points to an Obama win, has Florida, Virginia and North Carolina in the Romney column as well as Colorado’s nine electoral votes, which many analysts see as beyond Mr. Obama’s reach.

Adding up these states puts Mr. Romney’s base at 257 electoral votes, a mere 13 from victory. This was considered impossible a few weeks ago. From that substantial position, the Republican could win by taking Ohio (18 electoral votes), Michigan (16) or Pennsylvania (20). Even if he lost all three of these large states, he still would end up on top by taking Wisconsin (10) and one other small swing state from among New Hampshire (4), Iowa (6) and Nevada (6).

This is the background to Major Garrett’s National Journal report on Wednesday that Obama operatives have been reduced to pursuing a four-state strategy. They are entrenching in Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada in hopes of blocking the Romney endgame and eking out a victory. Whether this strategic-hamlet approach can prevail against the Romney insurgency remains to be seen, but it doesn’t account for the fluid nature of the electoral battle space.

It’s true no Republican has won the White House without the Buckeye State, but history isn’t destiny. In the 10 elections between 1952 and 1988, California went for Democrats only in 1964. If Mr. Obama focuses resources to hold Ohio but loses Pennsylvania or Michigan, he won’t be re-elected.

Mr. Romney’s options for victory are increasing while Mr. Obama’s dwindle. As the Obama campaign hunkers down into its final electoral redoubts, it’s worth recalling Gen. George S. Patton’s dictum that “fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man.” The tighter Mr. Obama tries to grip these four states, the more likely the election will slip through his fingers.

The Washington Times