With less than eight weeks until election day, is it too late for Romney and Ryan to recover? It is a question which Republican sympathisers are starting to ask openly.
What is the evidence? First port of call is the betting markets, which show the President a handy favourite, ranging from upwards of a 70% chance of winning with a range of bookmakers as well as the betting exchange Betfair, to 69% with the US-based Iowa Electronic Markets, to a best case for Romney/Ryan of a 65% probability of an Obama victory on the Dublin-based Intrade exchange.
Statistical modelling based on current polling ranges from an 87% probability of re-election estimated by the Princeton Election Consortium to 79% using the high-profile FiveThirtyEight methodology. FiveThirtyEight gives Obama a 92% chance of victory if the election were held today.
So what has gone wrong with the Republican campaign and is the election recoverable?
First of all, Romney's ratings in the polling have always reflected his social awkwardness and unconvincing sincerity. On any measure of empathy or likeability or understanding the needs of ordinary people, he not only trails the President by big double digits, but trails almost any other candidate in living memory. He is simply not a good candidate, and for most voters it is unlikely that someone will make a better job of being President than they do of being a candidate.
It is not just his apparent lack of conviction about anything, famously highlighted by Edward Kennedy's labelling of him as 'multiple choice' Mitt. It is the perception, which is amply reflected in the polling, that he is not a man who is easy to relate to. According to one of the most recent polls, he trails the President heavily when people are asked who they would trust more to take care of them if they were sick, or even who they would like to share a beer (or orange juice) with.
In his choice of running mate, he took a gambler's chance that a man commonly perceived as a demagogue would shake up the race sufficiently to give him a fighting chance. Paul Ryan also brought big bucks backers to the table.
Ryan's big opportunity to introduce his far-right agenda of slashing health care and social security for the poor and seniors at the same time as shredding taxes for the richest in the country backfired, however, when big portions of his speech were exposed as blatant fabrications by independent fact-checkers. To compound the problem, he subsequently doubled down by visiting a conservative talk radio show to claim he had run a marathon in his youth in almost Olympic qualifying time. Unfortunately for the Congressman, marathon times are a matter of record. In his only marathon, he had actually recorded a time in excess of four hours.
So can the Romney/Ryan ticket win?
There are three Presidential debates to come. This is obviously an opportunity, particularly if the moderators allow their personal political leanings to sway the occasions. But to achieve this, with or without the help of the moderators, we will need to see a very different Willard Mitt Romney to the one we have seen thus far.
Much more important is the massive money machine to which he has access, courtesy of the controversial 5-4 decision of the US Supreme Court to approve so-called super PACs, which allow billionaires and corporations to spend unlimited sums of money helping or hindering individual candidates. Most of this money wants favours repaid in full, including the very shredding of taxes for the super-rich to which the Romney/Ryan ticket is committed.
Billionaires like the Koch brothers and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the President and Democrats running for the Senate and Congress, to the background noise of wall-to-wall Republican talking points offered up by Fox News and conservative talk radio.
This investment of vast fortunes, including individual 10 million dollar cheques, may yet swing the election.
There is another piece of dirty laundry in the closet, in the form of voter suppression. This is currently being fought in the courts as Republican decision-makers in key swing states are fighting to reduce the turnout of minorities and the poorest by demanding particular forms of voter ID and limiting the window in which ballots can be cast. This is in the context of the polling which suggests that the President would be leading by several more digits if all those registered to vote did so. Among the total population of voting age, Obama would be assured of a landslide of historic proportions.
So the question is basically quite simple. Can big money and small turnout combine to see the Republican ticket defy the odds?
In November we shall know.
Follow Leighton Vaughan Williams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leightonvw