Since early August, Obama’s modest but consistent lead in Ohio seemed to defy history, partisanship, and demographics. The Buckeye State has voted more Republican than the country in all but a handful of presidential elections and Democratic chances hinge on white voters without a college degree, the single group where Obama has lost the most support since 2008. And exactly three months ago, this blog first greeted Obama’s apparent lead in Ohio by cautioning Obama fans against “celebrating until their candidate completes the hardest leg of the race,” since Obama only held 47 percent in a state where history makes it clear that Democrats have an easy road to 47 or 48 percent, but not 50.
Three months later, Romney’s window for a comeback in Ohio is closing. Over the last week, a wave of new polls show Obama leading by an average of 2 or 3 points with 48.9 percent of the vote. Although this compilation includes every survey, which happens to include a few Democratic partisan polls, the RealClearPolitics average also shows Obama with 48.9 percent, up more than a point from Obama's post-debate nadir.
Despite Ohio's demographics and history, the polls suggest that Obama holds the votes necessary to win the Buckeye State and the presidency. If the polls look the same heading into Election Day, undecided voters wouldn't be enough to sway the outcome of the state and Romney’s chances would hinge on low Democratic turnout or his ability to peel away Obama supporters.
If there was more time between now and November 6, perhaps Romney would stand a chance of mounting a comeback. But the space between Obama's share of the vote and 49 percent isn't the only window that's closing; Romney is nearly out of time. More than 20 percent of the expected vote has already been cast in Ohio, and the polls suggest that Obama might lead among early voters by as much as 20 points. And Romney can't count on a flood of undecided voters, either. Obama has always held the lead in the Buckeye State, and Romney hasn't even exceeded 47 percent of the vote in the RealClearPolitics average, suggesting that there isn't a pool of latent Romney supporters that will probably flock back to his side on Election Day. The polls have also been remarkably consistent, with Romney leading in just a handful of automated surveys over the last few months.
Absent a possible but unlikely last-minute shift in the polls between now and Election Day, Romney's chances will come down to the low but existent risk that the polls are and have been completely wrong. As Senators Harry Reid and Michael Bennet can attest, the polls have been wrong before and could be wrong again. But the Romney campaign's revival of August's welfare attack and their recent Jeep outsourcing antics suggest that Boston's numbers don't show something too different, while Chicago has unwaveringly maintained that they hold a modest and clear lead in Ohio. With Obama near 49 percent and just six days to go before the polls close, Romney's window for a comeback is getting vanishingly narrow.