It’s hardly the kind of definitive evidence we need to conclude Mitt Romney’s in the process of burying his presidential prospects, but there’s just no way for anyone to spin the new national Pew Research poll as anything other than really bad news for the GOP nominee. Taken from September 12-16 (in other words, before the Boca Moment video hit the airwaves), it shows Barack Obama opening up an 8-point lead among likely voters, while also topping 50%. If you want a real topline shocker: the same poll at this point in 2008 showed Obama and McCain even at 46%. If there’s been a poll this year showing Obama outperforming his 2008 numbers at any point whatsoever, I certainly don’t recall seeing it.

As you might expect from the LV margin, one major finding of the Pew poll is that the “enthusiasm gap” favoring Romney is now gone:

Democratic voters are now as likely as Republicans to say they have given quite a lot of thought to the election and are following campaign news as closely. Democratic voters also are as committed to voting, and as certain of their vote, as are their GOP counterparts.

Obama’s at 43% among white voters, and actually leads Romney among indies and–get this–among white non-Hispanic Catholics. These, of course, were two voter categories that GOPers confidently thought would automatically swing their way this year, requiring a massive minority turnout effort by Obama if the incumbent was to have any chance of surviving.

Pew’s analysis is very lengthy, and I haven’t had a chance to read, much less absorb and write about, it all. But for the moment, I’ll leave you with Pew’s opening summary:

At this stage in the campaign, Barack Obama is in a strong position compared with past victorious presidential candidates. With an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters, Obama holds a bigger September lead than the last three candidates who went on to win in November, including Obama four years ago. In elections since 1988, only Bill Clinton, in 1992 and 1996, entered the fall with a larger advantage.

Not only does Obama enjoy a substantial lead in the horserace, he tops Romney on a number of key dimensions. His support is stronger than his rival’s, and is positive rather than negative. Mitt Romney’s backers are more ardent than they were pre-convention, but are still not as enthusiastic as Obama’s. Roughly half of Romney’s supporters say they are voting against Obama rather than for the Republican nominee. With the exception of Bill Clinton in 1992, candidates lacking mostly positive backing have lost in November.

There’s always a chance this is poll is an outlier, but Pew’s got a pretty good rep, and this poll has quite a large sample. If Mitt’s got a game-changer, he’d better get it ready. But I fear his campaign’s idea of a “game-changer” is exactly what it was when he got in trouble in the primaries: mendacious nastiness, thrust into the airwaves with all the force of Rove/Koch money.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.