We're going to see a slew of numbers between now and Election Day, and they're not always going to add up.
Take, for example, yesterday's Gallup tracking poll that showed Romney up by 7 percentage points among likely voters nationally, 52 percent for Romney compared to 45 percent for Obama.
Compare that to a duo of NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist polls that found President Obama at 51 percent in two key swing states - up 8 points over Romney in Iowa (51 percent to 43 percent) and up 6 points over the Republican challenger in Wisconsin (51 percent to 45 percent).
The latest polling suggests a couple of things, according to ABC News Political Director Amy Walter:
First, one of these is terribly off - it is impossible to live in a world where Romney is leading nationally by seven points and yet trailing in a battleground state like Iowa by eight points.
Second, the margins of the polls are off, but the premise is correct: Romney is doing better in national polls, but continues to trail in Electoral College math. And that scenario, while rare, is looking highly possible. How would that happen?
Here's how: Romney over-performs in the South and even some blue states which would goose his national popular vote numbers. But, millions of dollars of attack ads have kept his vote ceiling low in many of these swing states. He can close the gap, but never overcome Obama in key swing states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Take a look at the Electoral College map: Both sides agree that North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Colorado are the best pick-up opportunities for Romney. If he gets all of those he's at 257. But, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Nevada are most likely to stay in Obama column. That gives the president 263.
That leaves Ohio, with its 18 Electoral Votes, as the decider.
Democrats concede the race has tightened there but they are as confident that they are going to win it as ever. Republicans argue that it is very, very close in the Buckeye State - much closer than the public polls have it - but they aren't putting it into their column just yet.
The Note's virtual political roundtable:
ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's just a newspaper endorsement. But the Orlando Sentinel's backing of Mitt Romney for president encapsulates President Obama's challenge rather concisely. It's switching sides, in sadness rather than anger, and it's happening in Florida. "We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years," the editorial reads. "For that reason, though we endorsed him in 2008, we are recommending Romney in this race." If Obama loses, that's the reason why - not because his onetime supporters no longer like him, but because they want to give someone else a chance.
EARLY VOTING WATCH: Absentee ballots were mailed out this week in Colorado and Nevada. It's an important milestone because it means that votes are now being cast in all of the battleground states that allow early in-person or no-excuse absentee voting. Figures for this cycle are not yet available in Colorado and Nevada, but in 2008 over 60% of the total vote came in via early and absentee voting in both of these states. Meanwhile, ballots are pouring in other battlegrounds, ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield and Chris Good report:
In OHIO, the Secretary of State's office reported on Wednesday that over 1.2 million voters have requested absentee ballots to vote by mail, and of those 1.2 million, 280,300 absentee ballots by mail have been cast. 124,073 Ohioans have cast an absentee ballot in person via early voting. Ohio does not register voters by party.
In VIRGINIA, 200,810 votes have been cast. Virginia also does not register by party. In Iowa, the Secretary of State's office reports that 284,569 absentee ballots had been received as of October 17 th. Of that 284,569, 140,631 are from registered Democrats. 86,249 are from registered Republicans, and the remaining 57,689 are from voters registered as "no party" or "other."
In NORTH CAROLINA, 67,350 absentee ballots have been cast, per the Secretary of State's office- 36,514 from registered Republicans, 18,351 from registered Democrats.
And in FLORIDA, the Secretary of State's office reports that over 537,000 absentee ballots have been cast so far. Professor Michael McDonald of the United States Election Project notes that within the Florida ballots already cast, 44.9% have been from registered Republicans, 39.6% from registered Democrats and 15.6% from "other/no party."
with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
DOES MITT ROMNEY HAVE AN IN-LAW PROBLEM? ABC's Matt Mosk reports: Mitt Romney's rise in business and politics has served as a marketing bonanza for two of his wife's closest relatives, both Utah-based businessmen who have benefited from, and are said to have traded on, their connection to the presidential candidate even as they suffered a succession of embarrassing business and legal difficulties. Ann Romney's brother Roderick Davies, who filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and nephew Ryan Davies, who oversaw a now-bankrupt green energy venture, have both been out on the campaign trail to offer support for Romney. But back in Utah, the two men have left a trail of unhappy business partners, a number of whom spoke with ABC News to express concern about how the two might try and capitalize on a Romney presidency. http://abcn.ws/TzLt7S
PRESIDENT OBAMA DEFENDS LIBYA RESPONSE ON 'DAILY SHOW.' President Obama today defended his handling of the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, rejecting the notion that his administration was "confused" in the wake of the assault reports ABC's Mary Bruce. "We weren't confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed," Obama told Jon Stewart in a taped appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," according to pool reports. Stewart pressed the president repeatedly on his administration's changing accounts of what led to the attack, suggesting the response was not "optimal." "If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal," Obama said. http://abcn.ws/TA7B20
BIDEN SAYS GOP 'HAS BULLETS AIMED AT YOU.' Vice President Joe Biden used controversial language to describe the GOP agenda in an exchange with an audience member in Las Vegas Thursday reports ABC's Arlette Saenz and Sarah Parnass. Biden referenced "Young Guns," the book the Republican vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., co-wrote with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in his speech to union workers at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas Events Center. "They have guns but no bullets," a member of the crowd shouted. "Unfortunately, the bullets are aimed at you," Biden replied, pointing at the man who had spoken and prompting laughter from the audience. http://abcn.ws/TwPlGj
IS OBAMA TALKING ENOUGH ABOUT THE FUTURE? Some Democrats say that, now more than ever, Obama has to give voters more than a defense of his presidency, but a clear plan for economic growth if he gets a second term, reports ABC's Abby Phillip. The problem for Obama has been exacerbated by a Romney debate strategy that has focused nearly exclusively on keeping Obama on his heels defending his record as president over the last four years…A Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner study conducted for Democracy Corps before the second debate by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, two veterans of President Bill Clinton's political operation, made the case that Obama should get bold and specific on policy. http://abcn.ws/PFNiV5
PAUL RYAN COURTS WOMEN AFTER 'BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN' COMMENT. The courting of female voters has intensified since Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's debate Tuesday, with the candidates pivoting to focus on women after Romney's "binders full of women" comment, as well as some waffling by a Romney senior adviser on the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act reports ABC's Shushannah Walshe. GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was even asked about jobs for women at his town hall here Thursday. In a steamy town square here in Florida, Ryan was asked by a female attendee if his ticket had "any plan in place for jobs specifically for women." He immediately answered much as his running mate has in the past: "Get the economy growing, number one." http://abcn.ws/QxXOIJ
MICHELLE OBAMA'S GUILTY PLEASURES: FRENCH FRIES, 'REAL HOUSEWIVES.' Michelle Obama is set to appear on "Live! with Kelly and Michael" on Friday reports ABC's Mary Bruce. And, as they did with Mitt and Ann Romney, the hosts subjected her to a lightning round of questions. They got the first lady to admit to a couple of guilty pleasures: the "Real Housewives" reality TV franchise. And French fries. http://abcn.ws/RKVYZz
OBAMA SAYS HE ADVOCATES FOR WOMEN IN JAY-Z'S FAMILY. In a radio interview Thursday with Colby Colb of Z107.9 Hip Hop Cleveland, President Obama discussed his relationship with superstar couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé, saying that he has taken on a role of advocate for the women in the young family, reports ABC's Devin Dwyer. "They just had a new baby and they've got a new daughter. And I made sure that Jay-Z was helping Beyoncé out [with the baby], and not leaving it all to mom and the mother-in-law," Obama said. The couple gave birth to their first child, whom they named Blue Ivy, in January. http://abcn.ws/RIIdak
AKIN, MCCASKILL SQUARE OFF. The candidates' agendas were plain in Thursday's Missouri Senate debate: Sen. Claire McCaskill sought to come off as moderate while her challenger, Rep. Todd Akin, sought to tie an Obama friendship bracelet around her wrist, reports ABC's Chris Good. Their clash at Clayton High School in St. Louis followed the same script their campaign has taken since Akin won his primary, rife with barbs about health care reform, Medicare, the 2009 stimulus bill-all levied, on both sides, as accusations of hyper-partisanship. http://abcn.ws/PFpyjK
ANN ROMNEY TELLS 'THE VIEW'- 'I'M PRO-LIFE.' As the race tightens and focuses on women, new attention is being paid to Mitt Romney's evolved position on abortion, but the woman who knows him best - his wife Ann- emphatically stated her own stance on the topic Thursday saying: "I am pro-life." ABC's Russell Goldman notes, Ann Romney, an influential surrogate for her husband who often takes his place on daytime talk shows with large female audiences, typically avoids any comment about policy or her own politics. But today she told the hosts of "The View" that she, like her husband, is opposed to abortion. http://abcn.ws/RHzmpc
LATINO VOTERS CRITICAL IN THREE BATTLEGROUNDS. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Fernanda Santos report: "Mr. Obama and his supporters have outspent Mr. Romney and his backers nearly 2-to-1 on advertising on Spanish-language television stations in three of the most closely contested states - Colorado, Florida and Nevada - including a new advertisement in which Mr. Obama makes a personal appeal for support, speaking entirely in Spanish. Mr. Romney's advisers have relied on a surge of ads across the television spectrum, saying that most Hispanics speak English and consider the economy, not immigration, the top issue. But if their strategies differ, both campaigns have determined that turning out Latinos in those three states is potentially critical." http://nyti.ms/TiEk1k
FOR OBAMA AND ROMNEY, SMALL NEW HAMPSHIRE COULD HAVE BIG IMPACT. The Washington Post's Dan Balz reports: "New Hampshire is the smallest of the battleground states, with just four electoral votes, and for much of the fall it has seemed an afterthought to the candidates as they've campaigned across more prominent contested states…. Ohio, Virginia, Florida and some other bigger states may be seeing the candidates on a more regular basis, but over the next 19 days, the battle for New Hampshire will be waged with the same intensity as elsewhere. The Obama and Romney campaigns differ about where the race stands here, but both agree that in an election as close as this one appears to be, no electoral vote can be taken for granted." http://wapo.st/T2Hboz
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-SCOTT BROWN CAMPAIGN RELEASES NEW TV AD: "ABANDONED." Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is out with a new campaign ad. The ad, titled "Abandoned" attacks Browns opponent, Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren, for her past legal work with LTV Steel in a case involving benefits for coal miners. "Warren sided with yet another corporation against working people" the narrator says in the ad. Warren's work with LTV Steel has been a frequent topic of discussion from the Brown campaign in the hotly contested race. WATCH: http://bit.ly/RFncNU
@GlennThrush : Obama's middling vagueness has robbed him of high ground in attacking Romney's greater vagueness
with ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
-President Obama is in Fairfax, VA campaigning at George Mason University. First Lady Michelle Obama will meet with grassroots supporters in Wisconsin delivering remarks in Racine and Wausau. Former President Bill Clinton will hold an event for President Obama in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
-Mitt Romney travels to Florida for an evening rally with his running mate Paul Ryan in Daytona Beach. Romney surrogates Chris Christie, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte will also be out campaigning.
-Vice President Biden is also in the battleground state of Florida holding a grassroots event in Sun City Center.
-Paul Ryan spends the day in Florida talking with supporters at two events in Tampa and at the evening rally with Mitt Romney in Daytona Beach.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV