ANALYSIS: The Meaning Of Momentum

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event, Aug. 8, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.

We've heard a lot about momentum this week -- especially from Mitt Romney's campaign -- and from Romney, himself.

The day after the final presidential debate, Romney told a huge crowd at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado: "You see the president's status quo campaign, you know going forward with the same ideas as we've seen over the last four years is, is why he's slipping, and it's why our campaign is gaining."

The next night, at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Romney told supporters he was "optimistic."

"Not just about winning," Romney said. "We are going to win, by the way, we're going to do that."

He underscored that sentiment last night at a rally in Defiance, Ohio: "Let me tell you, I'm optimistic," he said at the crowd chanted his name. "I'm excited about the future."

Get more pure politics at ABCNews.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

In Ohio, the state that could decide the entire election, two Romney campaign strategists released a memo yesterday, projecting confidence : "[The] Romney-Ryan ticket remains poised to win Ohio's 18 electoral votes because our ticket has more enthusiasm, has a better ground game, is leading among independents by a wide margin, and is crippling President Obama's early voting strategy."

Romney political director Rich Beeson and Ohio State Director Scott Jennings concluded: "Our view is that the race is a dead heat with Romney on an unmistakable upward track."

The latest Ohio polls show the race very close, but with President Obama still holding on to a slight edge. An NBC News-Marist poll in Nevada last night also gave the president a small lead in the state while a poll of Colorado showed the head-to-head race tied.

And, nationally, our own ABC News-Washington Post tracking poll yesterday had Romney hitting the 50 percent mark for the first time ever in our polling. Obama wound up with 47 percent support.

Also key, according to ABC News pollster Gary Langer, "Likely voters now pick Romney over Obama in trust to handle the economy by 52-43 percent -- the first time either candidate has held a clear lead over the other on this central issue."

Many of the trendlines are unmistakably moving in Romney's direction, but as we've seen so many times in this race, momentum is a moving target. As we head into the final full week of campaigning, the question becomes: Will Romney continue to ride his slow but steady upswing to Nov. 6 or will the president find a way to knock him off course?

And as ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd reminds us, momentum may not matter when it comes to who actually wins the White House: "This race leans slightly in Romney's direction, nationally," Dowd notes. "But it leans slightly in Obama's direction electorally -- by a few states."

Keep an eye on ABC News.com for our next ABC News-Washington Post tracking poll at 12p.m. today: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/polls/

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