Presidential campaigns want to win. Pundits just want to have fun.
Scott Conroy, a pundit, was therefore just doing his job when he wrote at Real Clear Politics last weekend that the Mitt Romney camp might consider going on the offensive in the Northeast where incumbent Barack Obama is considered a heavy favorite in many of the states.
Could Romney challenge in places like Connecticut, New Jersey or even Delaware?
"I do feel ultimately we can put Connecticut in play for our seven electoral votes," Connecticut GOP State Party Chairman Jerry Labriola told Conroy. "You can put conventional wisdom aside with this kind of nominee. You can look at the map a little differently and see if we can make Obama compete up here.”
By his own admission, however, Conroy suggests Romney may not actually allocate valuable resources to such an endeavor.
"While Romney strategists declined to comment on their electoral tactics, advisers close to the campaign are privately skeptical that they can afford to mount anything more than a token effort in the Northeast — other than in the swing state of New Hampshire," Conroy wrote.
So long as polls in swing states like Wisconsin show Obama with sizable leads, there is little chance Romney will devote resources to a deep blue state in the Northeast where he is a big underdog.
Over at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza breaks the race down in more traditional form. His key question is whether Obama's sweeping victories in 2008 are the new norm or a mammoth anomaly. If the latter, the map will revert to its 2004 form with a small handful of swing states, which Cillizza identifies as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Also at the Washington Post, Dan Balz lays out the timeline for the campaign, noting that the decisive break historically has been Labor Day. Typically, the candidate leading in the polls at the end of August goes on to win the election.
"Among the exceptions: Ronald Reagan trailed Jimmy Carter in a mid-September 1980 Gallup poll and went on to win an electoral landslide. Al Gore led George W. Bush narrowly in an early September 2000 Gallup survey. He won the popular vote but not the presidency. But in virtually every other case dating to 1952, the leader in the Gallup Poll around Labor Day went on to win."
The 2004 election offers some support for a Labor Day deadline, as the Rasmussen tracking polls showed frequent lead changes throughout the summer but then a small Bush lead gelled and fixed in late August.
The 2008 election, oddly enough, was very nearly an exception, despite it eventually being a landslide. It is easy to forget that as late as mid-September John McCain and Obama were in a dead heat in both Rasmussen and Gallup polls. The race did not really gel until the financial collapse hit and McCain responded in an intemperate manner to it. Also, Sarah Palin started to became a liability among centrist swing voters.
In sum, recent history suggests a great deal of fluidity through the summer, with the race narrowing to a very small number of swing states that will not include Connecticut. Jerry Labriola is destined for disappointment.
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at email@example.com.