I saw a curious headline from NPR this morning: "Romney Rides Momentum To Nevada, Colorado." Reuters had a similar headline this morning, touting Romney's "momentum," and Slate did the same thing yesterday.
I have no idea what they're talking about.
To be sure, the Republican saw significant, possibly even election-changing, gains after his first debate with President Obama three weeks ago, erasing the advantage the incumbent built up in September.
But what's happened since? By every measure, Obama won the second debate last week, then won again in the third debate. The polls that showed the president's lead evaporating have leveled off. Early voting totals have looked quite favorable for Democrats. In Nate Silver's model, Obama's odds of winning have gone from 61.1% two weeks ago to 68.1% yesterday.
So why simply ascribe Romney with "momentum"? Based on what, exactly? Does the Republican have momentum because he's telling the media he has momentum?
As an antidote to the (perhaps) irrational Republican exuberance that seems to have seized D.C., we pause for the following public-service announcement. To be President, you have to win states, not debates. And Mitt Romney has a problem. Despite a great debate and what The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. on Sunday called a polling "surge," Romney has not put away a single one of the must-have states. President Obama remains the favorite because he only needs to win a couple of the toss-ups. Mitt needs to win most of them.
A cold shower for the GOP: Most polling shows Romney trailing in Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa - by MORE than Obama trails in North Carolina. Glenn Thrush and Jonathan Martin reminded of us of the 2008 primary analogy: Whatever else Hillary Clinton had, Barack Obama had the math. And math, not momentum, gets you the big house, the bulletproof car, the cool plane.
Just to be clear, I'm not denying the fact that Romney has a very credible chance of winning this election and becoming president. My point, rather, is that the notion of Romney's "momentum" seems to be a hype-generated gift some in the media have decided to give the Republican, based on nothing in particular.