The Signal

Can Romney still win? Of course—just not the way things are going

This is not where the Romney campaign wanted to be three weeks after Tampa.

The bounce in the polls that President Barack Obama netted coming out of the Democratic National Convention might have vanished by now, as those postconvention bumps tend to do, if not for the bad press that has pelted Republican challenger Mitt Romney nearly every day since the Democrats returned from Charlotte. First, Romney's response to the death of the American ambassador to Libya was widely viewed as inappropriate, even within his party. Just as he was recovering from that stumble, Mother Jones magazine released a leaked video of Romney disparaging the work ethic of 47 percent of Americans.

What everyone wants to know, of course, is whether historians will look back on these episodes as the effective end of Romney's chances at the presidency, to which we answer: Of course not. This is not just because the news media will tire of this story line by the end of the week, though that's part of it. ("Assignment editors: Now is the time to order up those 'Romney's coming back' pieces," one columnist quipped on Tuesday.) Mostly, it is the fact that new information and new story lines will relentlessly pile on for the next 47 days.

As of Thursday morning, Obama leads Romney in the polls 48.3 to 45 percent on Pollster's aggregated average, his largest lead in general election. He has larger leads in several swing states. In our model, which reacts much faster than polls thanks to the influence of the prediction markets, he has gone from just below 60 percent likely to win on the morning of the Republican convention to a 73 percent likelihood in the aftermath of the video.

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Likelihood of Victory

Sources: Betfair, Intrade, IEM, HuffPost's Pollster, RealClearPolitics

Even though these two lines are redundant—one is just the opposite share of 100 percent from the other—it's the red line that is more important. Romney has a 27 percent likelihood of winning this election, highly non-negligible odds. Here's the important point: If the election were in fact held today, we feel extremely confident that Obama would win. That 27 percent chance represents the odds that Romney can turn around his campaign in the next 47 days, not the odds that he could win at the present moment.

We have said before that Romney's chief opponent is not Obama but Father Time. In that sense, the past 10 days have been most damaging to Romney because they are 10 days he will never get back.

Follow the state-by-state and overall presidential predictions in real time with PredictWise.com.

David Rothschild has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @DavMicRot.

Correction, 2:01 p.m. EST: The graph in this post originally reversed the colors in the legend.

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