Experts Put Ohio Into President Obama's Column

Donors and "super PACs" will lose confidence in Romney if a win seems impossible.

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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012.

Ohio is slipping away from Mitt Romney. That's the judgment of the top political handicappers—Real Clear Politics, The Cook Political Report, The Rothenberg Political Report, Sabato's Crystal Ball, and the New York Times's Nate Silverwho have all now moved the Buckeye State from the toss-up category into the lean Obama category. And as you've probably heard—no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.

Indeed, while all the cautionary provisos should still be deployed—there are weeks and weeks left before the election and the debates could still shake up the race (though history shows that they rarely do), Romney's path to the White House is diminishing into nothingness.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

This shouldn't come as a surprise at the end of a week in which polls were released giving Obama leads of eight and 10 points in Ohio. But given the relationship between expectations and results in politics this could be a fatal problem for Romney. Specifically, if big money donors and "super PACs" decide that Romney is a lost cause, they might turn their attention to holding the House and taking the Senate, which would only further wound Romney. It's the kind of political vicious cycle from which an already inept campaign like Romney's could have trouble recovering.

Indeed, three of the handicappers—Sabato, Silver, and Rothenberg—have more than 270 electoral votes' worth of states currently residing in the "lean" Obama category or better, while Real Clear Politics puts the figure currently favoring Obama at 265 electoral votes' worth of states.

[Check out our collection of political cartoons on Super PACs.]

Here's how Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley put it:

So with 40 days to go, we're moving several toss-up states in the president's direction. Our changes push Obama over the magic 270 mark, but we are not calling the race. First, the debates are yet to come. There is at least the possibility that, if Romney fares particularly well or Obama does poorly, the drift of this contest could change. Second, other events — international (a crisis) or domestic (dramatically poor economic numbers) — could theoretically occur to re-write the narrative of the race. So caution is always in order with almost six weeks to go, yet President Obama clearly leads at the moment.

That seems about right. Romney's not done, but the clock is ticking faster and faster.

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