Mitt Romney's strategists say history is on their side, at least in one sense.
They say Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is ahead of where challenger Ronald Reagan was against President Jimmy Carter in June 1980, a campaign Reagan eventually won handily. That June, Carter had 39 percent support, Reagan 32, and independent John Anderson 21, according to the Gallup Poll. Reagan went on to defeat Carter in the November election, 51 to 41, with Anderson at 7.
A recent analysis by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato buttresses the point.
"Remember that this [Reagan-Carter] race appeared close until the very end, with some polling even indicating that Carter might actually win just a few days before the election," Sabato says. "But Reagan proved his mettle in a late debate, and Carter's attempt to negotiate freedom for the American hostages in Iran failed. Those late developments helped turn a close election into a blowout."
All this adds to the optimism in the Romney camp. "We're very pleased" with the state of the campaign today, says a senior Romney adviser.
Many pundits and political professionals had expected Romney to emerge from the GOP primaries "bloodied, bruised, and battered," the aide told U.S. News, but instead Romney is in a strong posiition, statistically tied with President Obama in the polls. And this is happening before Romney begins "prosecution of our basic case against the president," the aide says.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.