Published September 19, 2012
"You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released [Monday] by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney's campaign for president."
-- Bloomberg News political columnist Josh Barro
In mid-August, President Obama led Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by nearly 5 points in the Real Clear Politics Average of national polls. Today, after a spate of new polling, Obama leads by about half that.
While the race moved briefly into an absolute tie following the Republican National Convention, it's hard to see how the current contour of this race is very different than it has been all along: the incumbent leads, but only slightly.
The strong suggestion here is that the succession of moments that were said to have ruined Romney's chances were little noticed by voters.
The latest alleged death blow for Romney, a leaked video of the candidate telling donors that he didn't expect to win the votes of those who don't pay federal income tax, led every network news show this morning and is supposed to be the next big thing in the race. But since voters didn't seem to pay much attention to the previous "big things" what's to say that this one will be any different?
Both candidates are struggling to be heard by a cranky electorate who has come to place little faith in the claims of politicians. But it may also be that the voters both campaigns are desperately trying to reach have tuned out the political press as well.
The next leaked videos to surface could feature Obama holding a Young Socialists meeting in the Oval Office and Romney being carried on a sedan chair into a meeting with the Koch Brothers and voters would shrug.
For most voters in this politically polarized nation, there is nearly nothing that could change their votes. For the 5 percent to 10 percent of those who still say they are undecided, it seems unlikely that they pay much attention to the political press.
Do you know any political junkies who are undecided? Interest in these kinds of daily messaging mash-ups requires some serious motivation - a rooting interest in the race. How could anyone endure the daily grind of politics without either a paycheck or a partisan posture?
And in this election that offers the starkest ideological contrast in more than a generation, how else could one manage to be undecided other than not paying too much attention.
Now, there are worrisome signs for both candidates in the polls.
Romney ought to be very alarmed to see Obama's job approval on the rise. After being underwater for most of the spring and nearly all of the summer, Obama is back in positive territory and closing in on the 50 percent mark.
Also concerning for Romney is the fact that the average rating for the direction of the country - the right track/wrong track number - which had been holding steady at a miserable 30 percent right track for months has jumped by 10 points this month.
The president has lots to worry about too, especially as it relates to independents.
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll shows Obama bumping out his lead over Romney by a point, but also shows him sliding 12 points on his handling of foreign policy with independents, diving to 41 percent from 53 percent last month. This is not a good sign for the president's handling of the ongoing anti-American turmoil in the Muslim world.
The president is also still struggling in measures of voter intensity. In the Associated Press poll out today, Obama leads Romney by a staggering 52 percent to 37 percent among all adults. But among likely voters, the race is deadlocked: Obama 47 percent, Romney 46 percent.
Romney faces serious liabilities not from the individual stories but from the overall press narrative that he is a stumbling bumbler, convincing many persuadable voters that he's not ready for prime time.
If Romney retreats back into a message about managerial competency instead of the contrast race he described in his leaked video and embraced with his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, undecided and persuadable voters will be shown ample evidence that it is Obama, not Romney, who has the skills to be the CEO of the federal government.
Obama faces the opposite problem from this apocalyptic press coverage of Romney's candidacy. With all of the daily declarations of Romney's inevitable defeat, many of the president's voters will not feel the urgency to go to the polls as Republicans, who would turn out whomever their nominee was.
But as to whether the hyperventilated political press is really moving voters, it's safe to say that persuadable voters aren't paying any more attention to them than they are the candidates bombarding the airwaves with negative ads.
If those voters were really interested in following that stuff, they wouldn't still be undecided.
And Now, A Word From Charles
"Look at a featured speaker at Democrat convention, Sandra Fluke. Here's a woman who is from an elite law school, is going to make $160,000 as a starting salary in the private sector. What is her great demand? Why was she the big star? Demanding that ordinary Americans average income $50,000 pay her contraceptives. That is personification of the idea of entitlement, of victimization. That is entire idea of ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what your country can do for you. This is exactly what Romney is talking about."
-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.