THE RACE is tied. Ohio still looking like the Democratic firewall, thanks to Mitt Romney, a state he has to win, but Obama needs, too. The notion that Sen. Harry Reid would let Nevada slip to Romney is laughable, when you think of scenarios to 270.

So now that the debates are over, perhaps people will calm down. Nah, Team Romney won’t, of course, because confusion benefits them. Team Obama can’t, because they’re too busy rebutting the hysteria coming from the right.

These details would not be worth writing about in any other state ““ but Ohio is Ohio, and whoever wins it is extremely likely to win the election. […] Unlikely does not equal impossible, but Ohio is central enough in the electoral math that it now seems to matter as much as the other 49 states put together. I am not sure whether I should be congratulating you or consoling you if you happen to be reading this in Toledo. – Nate Silver

It was always going to be close, because people are dissatisfied, but Barack Obama got exactly where he is today all by himself and it started long before the first debate. When Barack Obama walked away from his base through his decisions, whether in Congress, online or supporters who elected him in ’08, his troubles began. I’ve written the story of this drama for years. Whatever dispirited behavior Democrats and progressives have shown this year, Pres. Obama has to soldier himself.

From Obama’s drone policy (with kill lists reportedly expanding), to back-room deals on health care made while the White House told tall tales of still working for a public option, giving Wall Street a pass by not prosecuting white collar crooks, “grand bargain” offers that compromise Democratic economic principles, Simpson-Bowles austerity, choosing to stay out of Wisconsin union fight, freezing federal workers’ pay, and on and on.

This election writes a new chapter in the “hold your nose” voting saga of Democratic Party elections. A “lesser of two evils” bonanza.

So, here we are and it could really come down to Ohio. It could come down to Romney’s “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed.

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course ““ the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check….

…and on and on it goes, with the pearls of wisdom from Mr. Romney about unions quite precious.

The piece drew criticism from Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of AutoNation Inc. (AN), the largest auto-dealer group in the U.S., who called it “truly reckless, detached from reality, and dishonest,” as well as “very bad politics, especially in Michigan.” Jackson, who has been a Romney advocate, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News the assertion that private financing should have been used to fund GM and Chrysler bankruptcies was “fantasy,” adding, “Everyone knows we were in the midst of the greatest financial meltdown since the 1930s.” – Romney’s Shifting Auto Bailout Stance May Become Liability

The Obama campaign sent out a quote, the link no longer active, from the Detroit Free Press:

“Romney consistently has argued against taxpayer money being used to prop up the firms outside of bankruptcy. He seems to suggest that there could have been some funding after the fact to keep them up and operating until private financing kicked in. But people who were part of the rescue argue that this wouldn’t have worked. Private financing was all but nonexistent in the frozen credit markets of late 2008 and early 2009. And both the Republican administration of President George W. Bush and the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama found it necessary — if distasteful — to put up billions of dollars to keep the companies open while they sorted out what should be done longer term (i.e., the “˜managed’ bankruptcy Romney suggested), though that took time. To withhold money then, supporters of the rescue have said, would have forced the companies into liquidation. Romney said Thursday he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.”

From CNN Money:

“General Motors reported a record annual profit Thursday, just two years after the nation’s largest automaker emerged from bankruptcy with the help of a federal bailout. With rivals Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) and Chrysler Group having already reported profits for last year, 2011 marked the first time since 2004 that all three major U.S. automakers were profitable at the same time.”

Barack Obama’s GOTV machine is the best in the business and he’s going to need it.

We simply can’t be sure about Romney’s ground game, but I’d be very surprised if it’s close to what Obama has going.

From Charlie Cook recently:

About 4 million more Latinos are registered to vote this year than in 2008, and Obama has the support of 69 to 70 percent of them, according to the polls”“a finding that tops his 67 percent showing in 2008. But to what extent will lower enthusiasm levels among Latinos this year offset that support? Substantially more 18-to-29-year-olds are registered voters today than were four years ago. However, in a just-released national survey conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, Obama is leading by only 19 points, 55 percent to 36 percent, among likely voters in that age cohort, well behind the 66 percent he won four years ago. The Obama campaign is moving heaven and earth in the social-media sphere to try to boost his performance and the turnout among this key group, but will it work?

Although most observers expect that the Obama campaign will have an even better voter-identification and get-out-the-vote operation in 2012 than in 2008, hardly anyone has a clue about what kind of ground game the Romney campaign will mount. The remarkably effective Republican field operation in President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign was allowed to grow flaccid in intervening years; how much of it the Romney campaign has been able to replace or replicate since he nailed down the nomination in April is anyone’s guess.

Cook wrote something else yesterday and it deserves to be highlighted, because it’s what I’ve believed all year, even amid all the debate drama. It begins with Cook’s headline: Despite a Strong Debate Campaign, Romney’s Path to 270 Remains Steep.

But if the national polls are looking even, that doesn’t mean that the election is an even-money contest. Although this race is very close, the road to 270 electoral votes is considerably more difficult for Romney than it is for Obama. The president starts off with undisputed leads in 16 states and the District of Columbia with 237 electoral votes, 33 short of the 270 needed to win. Romney begins with equally clear leads in 23 states with 191 electoral votes, 79 short of a victory. Nine states with 110 electoral votes are in the admittedly broad Toss-Up column (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin). Obama needs to win 30 percent of those Toss-Up electoral votes; Romney needs 72 percent of those votes.

You can be sure Republicans are mobilized.

Democrats are ready, but not nearly in the same way as 2008, which is understandable.

But the foreign policy conversation on Monday likely revved Democrats back up. The spectacle of Mitt Romney deciding that if you can’t beat the commander in chief you might as well join him at the water’s edge was on the far side of too much to take.