The Left is already talking about an Obama landslide. The Right is talking about 1980. Which scenario is more likely?
There are some parallels with 1980. Carter came into office with a groundswell of good will after the Nixon/Ford years. He promised to shake up Washington but was unable to work with a Democrat-controlled Congress. The economy was never good under Carter, swinging from recession to high inflation and back to recession. Like Carter, the economy under Obama has been poor and he does not get along well with Congress.
In 1980, Reagan did not have widespread support. The election was considered too close to call right up through election day. Many people considered it a choice between two bad candidates. Several political cartoons had jokes about coins being tossed.
There are differences. Carter was seen as weak on defense. The staff of the Iranian Embassy had been taken hostage and he seemed powerless to free them. Carter was widely seen as a nice man who was in over his head. Obama may also be in over his head but that is not a widespread belief.
There was also an independent on the ballot, John Anderson who ran as the last liberal Republican. It is unclear who he hurt more. He might have siphoned some of the anti-Carter vote from Reagan or he might have received a lot of anti-Carter protest votes.
Romney is no Reagan. Reagan created the new Republican coalition, people who voted against Romney in the primaries.
Obama is much more liberal than Carter was and has more accomplishments under his belt. Carter's only real success was the Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt. Obama has Obamacare (which may hurt him) and can claim credit for "getting" bin Laudin.
Romney is much more of a centrist than Reagan and is nowhere near as good a public speaker.
Still, there are several things that could go wrong for Obama between now and the election. Many of these involve Israel. It is also possible that the economy will continue to slow. The more things go wrong the more Obama will look like Carter.
What about the possible Obama landslide? Right now polls show Obama with a commanding lead of 332 to 206 with no states tied. That's where talk of an Obama landslide come from. What will it take for Romney to win?
There are five states that barely lean Obama (Florida (29), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), and New Hampshire (4)). Let's assume that Romney can pick up all of these. That would give him an additional 65 electoral votes, 271 total with 270 needed to win. That hardly justifies the skepticism the left is showing.
There are no states that are barely for Romney. There are six that are classified as "likely Romney" and nine that are "likely Obama". Both candidates will need to hold onto all of these states.
Romney has been making a play for three of the "likely Obama" states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. The most recent polls show Obama gaining in these states but things get complicated here. The most recent poll in all three states was from Quinnipiac and they over-sampled Democrats by up to ten points. That means that Obama might be slightly behind in Ohio rather than ahead by six points. If Romney could pick up Ohio or Pennsylvania he could still lose any of the other close states except Florida.
Polling in general is becoming more complicated. Traditionally the most accurate polls are done by phone surveys to land-lines. An increasing number of people only have cell phones. Pollsters such as Rasmussen are prohibited from calling cell phones and have to supplement their normal polling. This may or may not be sufficient.
Regardless, summer polls are seldom accurate. Both candidates will get a boost from their party's convention. What will determine the election is how big a boost they get and how lasting it is. Romney has the most to gain. A lot of voters still know little about him. He has been polling close to Obama for weeks. A good impression at the convention and a solid performance in the debates will give him the election. A stumble and he will lose.