This has ranged from explicit gamesmanship ("…for the first time in six years, Romney folks E-mailed, 'We're going to win,' " Politico's Mike Allen reported in his "Playbook") to subtler head faints meant to signal strength. See, for example, last week's announcement that the GOP was pulling resources (which proved to be a single staffer) out of North Carolina to drip-drip-drip discussion of maybe, possibly re-entering Pennsylvania. "If Romney acts and speaks like a landslide is on the way, perhaps he can create the atmospherics he needs for a small and meaningful win," Politico's Alexander Burns reported this week. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait and Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall have pointed out, this is a classic campaign-closing bluff last seen in 2000 when Karl Rove had George W. Bush doing a pre-election victory lap in California with an eye toward creating momentum through buzz.
And to some extent the current Romney bluff is working. Asked Wednesday at an Aspen Institute event who is winning, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter said that if "you look at the news coverage and you look at the data…you get two different answers." The news narrative, she said, is one of an "ascendant" Romney with the "momentum." But the data—state by state polls, for example—tell a different story. "The underneath numbers suggest that it's still Obama's race right now, that fundamentally he has got the edge in the Electoral College."
Fables of Rom-mentum haven't managed to crack that electoral lock yet. Neither has Romney's transformation back into a moderate wiped away the damage he did to his electability during his conservative phase. But he still might solve that problem—and that's the scariest Halloween news of all.
- Read Brad Bannon: Mitt Romney's Bad Company
- Read Mary Kate Cary: Exposing Barack Obama's 'False Choice'
- Take the U.S. News poll: Do the media pay too much attention to election poll data?