Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake pour some cold water on Democratic euphoria about the polls: since in many ways the current environment isn’t as favorable for Obama as 2008 was, his margin in 2008 puts a reasonable upper bound on his likely margin this year; indeed, this year is likely to be closer.

Yes, but.

First off, the Cillizza and Blake analysis ignores the secular demographic trends that make each cycle harder for what has become the National Capitalist White People’s Party: not only the changing ethnic mix, but also the strongly communal ethic of the Millenials.

It also ignores the dynamic of a blowout Presidential election: the decision by a slice of the voters who generally vote for one party that this year’s candidate simply isn’t up to the job of President. The victim is usually the challenger: Goldwater in ’64, McGovern in ’72, Mondale in ’84. But it can happen to the incumbent: Jimmy Carter after the failed hostage rescue mission in 1980.

That may be happening to Mitt Romney this year, not without some skilled help from the Obama team and the press, but mostly driven by Romney’s own rebarbative personality and transparent lack of principle, courage, judgment, and empathy, and the fact that the party he nominally leads is completely off the rails and hasn’t let him tack to the center.

Speaking of skilled help, here’s the ad Greg Sargent calls “brutal”: not, I take it, as a criticism, but merely as a tribute to its brutal effectiveness. Chris Lemos may be overstating, but not by much, when he calls it a “knockout punch”.

Here’s Romney’s attempt to get up off the floor:

And here’s the DNC, knocking him down again:

In an actual prizefight, any decent ref would step in at this point and stop it. But a Presidential election goes all 15 rounds. If it were happening to almost anyone but Romney, you’d start to feel a little sorry for him.

Note that I’m not predicting a landslide, though I’m hoping for one, and one big enough to carry the House despite all the gerrymanders. Of course the race could tighten if Romney manages to seem more or less human in the debates. But there’s no guarantee that Romney will do as well as McCain did.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.