I have liked Major Garrett's reporting since he was at the Washington Times (before Fox News, before National Journal). He's a good journalist -- which is why it surprised me that he would have buried real news at the bottom of a "think piece" about last night's debate. But here it is:
What also became clear after the dust began to settle from the rumble on Long Island was the electoral map has narrowed and Obama's team, while conceding nothing publicly, is circling the wagons around Ohio,Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Plouffe said that Obama remains strong in all four states, but he would not discuss the specifics of internal polling or voter-contact analytics, saying only that Obama has "significant leads" in all four places.
It is uncharacteristic of Team Obama to concede any terrain, but Plouffe offered no such assurances about Obama's position in North Carolina, Virginia, or Florida. Romney advisers have seen big gains in all three states and now consider wins likely, although not guaranteed, in all three. They are similarly upbeat about prospects in Colorado but not confident enough to predict victory. That Plouffe left Colorado off his list of states where Obama's leading and can withstand a Romney surge might be telling.
Interestingly, Garrett concludes with "With both sides seeing and smelling victory, it's clear after the verbally contentious and physically confrontational debate at Hofstra University the electoral map has narrowed and the issue matrix is being sifted." Yes. Well, at risk of seeming to pile on the President, it's hard to understand how both sides are "seeing and smelling victory" when the electoral map has narrowed for only one side and the "issue matrix" is going to remain heavily on the economy along with the unfolding Libya scandal -- neither of which favors the incumbent.
As CNN notes, even in Pennsylvania -- which the President won in 2008 by 10 points (and where he led by double digits for most of this year) -- his lead is now within the margin of error. One wonders whether the smell the Obama campaign is picking up is "victory" or the more sulphurous scent of a campaign that's trailing smoke as it heads into a death spiral. Let's hope it's the latter.