Less than a week away from Election Day, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney may be perceived as down, but he's not out. From the statistical model developed by election prognosticator Nate Silver of The New York Times to the betting website Intrade, President Barack Obama is expected to win re-election.
But Republicans have plenty of reason for optimism, as the campaign heads to the finish line.
Following his exceptional performance in his initial debate against Obama, Romney has edged out the presidential in many daily national tracking polls. He's also broken through with independent voters, a key group that Obama won over in 2008.
"Before the presidential debates, Mitt Romney's lead among independents ranged from 4 to 8 points," said Whit Ayres and Luke Frans of the polling firm Resurgent Republic in a memo. "Romney [now] has opened a 12-point lead among independents in our most recent survey."
Winning over independent voters is critical for Romney and is an important indicator of momentum, particularly at this stage in the race. It also means that Romney is successfully making inroads with voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and may personally like him, but are disappointed by his performance.
Romney's path to victory, of course, lies in winning 270 Electoral College votes. In order to do this, Romney will have to run the table in a majority of the battleground states that have been the focus of heavy campaigning by both sides.
Polls show Romney within striking distance and capable of winning Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Those states, piled on top of those that 2008 nominee John McCain won, plus the now deeply red Indiana, put Romney close but not over the top. With Ohio looking increasingly unlikely to break Romney's way, his path goes through winning a combination of Iowa and Wisconsin. If Romney wins in New Hampshire, he only needs to add Wisconsin to his win column, without the Granite State, he'll need to take both Iowa and Wisconsin to hit the magic number.
Winning all those swing states would be the equivalent of running the table. But there's no doubt Romney and the Republican Party have put together a far better ground game than McCain had, blowing past the number of voter contacts (phone calls, doors knocked on) than the 2008 effort and better targeting likely voters.
A GOP campaign volunteer on the ground in New Hampshire says she's been encouraged by the enthusiasm she's seen over the last week.
"This is a really big final weekend here, you basically won't be able to go anywhere in the state without hearing about Romney," she says, adding that what she's seen "has given me reason to believe he will win this thing here."
Karl Rove, the campaign guru who guided President George W. Bush to re-election in 2004, opined that Romney would win with at least 279 electoral votes.
"It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Romney campaigned in Florida on Wednesday, will be in Virginia on Thursday, and heads to New Hampshire over the weekend.
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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.