Mitt Romney's politicization of a diplomatic crisis in the Middle East befuddled a lot of political observers. But the explanation is rather simple though quite crude: Mitt Romney is freaking out. Because he's losing. Just a few tracking snapshots: From Gallup:
From TPM's PollTracker:
In some recent swing state news, Obama has opened up a double digit lead in Michigan (evidently, they don't like to be told to go bankrupt). The President leads by 9 points in New Mexico, and by 10 points in Minnesota. According to TPM's PollTracker polling averages, the president is ahead in all the swing states except for two (Virginia and North Carolina).
And just yesterday came news that President Obama is now taking the lead among the only group of minority voters who traditionally vote Republican: Cuban American voters. A Survey USA poll now shows the President with a 16-point lead among Cuban Americans in Florida. As a friend of mine put it on Facebook, if that poll is true, Mitt Romney might as well hang it up.
Let me issue the following caveat: there are 54 days left till the Presidential election, and that is a lifetime in politics. There is no place for complacency for those of us supporting the president. There is, however, cause for some confidence. Since the Democratic and Republican conventions have ended, President Obama has shown a bounce that has persisted in meaningful ways: it has persisted or grown over the past few days, it has persisted in national polling and swing state polling, and it has persisted across polling organizations, including the GOP darling Fox News.
With the usual caveat that the only poll that really counts is on election day, if you look at the numbers - both nationally and in swing states, the President seems to be pulling away. And that is sounding the alarms in the Romney campaign. Mitt Romney had a horrible summer. The Paul Ryan pick was supposed to be give him a surge, and instead it fell flat like a thud. His convention got upended by an old man talking to an empty chair. His running mate got caught lying delivering his acceptance speech, and Mitt Romney himself neglected to mention Americans fighting in uniform in his own speech at the RNC.
That was followed by a Democratic National Convention that hit just the right note and raved up the Democratic base as well as took our message everywhere. Bill Clinton dissected the GOP's lies about Obama, and President Obama himself gave Americans the right measure of the economy - that it is advancing, but work remains to be done, together.
So Mitt Romney needed to do something drastic. Something unusual, even if that means it's something crazy. And he did. He let his loose lips fly on the tragedy in Syria and Libya - a situation still evolving and incredibly volatile - which in turn blew up in his face when prominent Republicans refused to back him up on politicizing an international crisis. Mitt Romney is now reduced to trying to avoid the issue altogether - the issue he wanted to take political advantage of.
Is Mitt Romney dumb? No. He may be cold-hearted and calculating, but he isn't stupid. He's desperate. He's desperate because the President has been successful in explaining to the American people the progress we have made under him since he took office during the worst economic devastation in history except for the Great Depression. He's shown the American people his judgment in foreign policy by giving the order to take out bin Laden. Mitt Romney is desperate because given the direction the race is moving in, he needs something big to happen or to change in order for momentum to turn the other way, his way. He sees precious little time for that to happen. And hence, he's freaking out.
Update @ 4:24 pm Pacific: Just for good measure, Nate Silver's current analysis released today puts in just one picture the cause for panic in Romney HQ: