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Hardball: Does Romney Now Have the Edge?

Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd and Jonathan Martin discuss the state of the race on "Hardball."

MATTHEWS: This thing seems to be drifting around. I don't want to bring a lot of numbers in tonight because there's so many of them, they all conflict with each other. Is there a drift, a turn, is it moving towards Romney clearly ever since that first debate? Is that a safe assessment or is it not?

TODD: I think it moved clearly in Romney's direction. I think it is now sort of sitting there. The question is, does he still got a little bit of momentum or did the president stop him?

MATTHEWS: So that's the bottom line. A little more momentum left, but he did gain ground?

TODD: He gained a lot of ground. I think this is basically an even race, a coin-flip race. It's about whether Mitt Romney can break through in the three Midwestern states. He's got to unlock those three Midwestern states: Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. It's the only way the math works.

MATTHEWS: So you're implying that it's going to be so close in the popular vote, you and Jon, that these electoral decisions state by state are going to really matter?

TODD: I think they absolutely are going to matter.

MATTHEWS: There's not a big national mandate.

TODD: I think Colorado and Virginia are the two closest.

MATTHEWS: So you don't see a national mandate crossing the country right now?

TODD: Not right now, but if it moves. I am still a believer that it's still possible.

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with him that it basically moved a big space toward Romney after that first debate, and it sort of came to a still, that swing, or has it in your mind?

MARTIN: I think it is still moving in Romney's direction, and I think that one of two things are going to happen. Either the Obama campaign is going to sweat out an electoral vote victory where they put together a combination of states that Chuck mentioned -- Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada -- and Romney can't get to 270. And they sweat out a really tough race, negative race, they grind it down, and they get 275. Or in the next couple of days here, we do see that national swing, and Romney does make a sort of huge push.

TODD: Sweeps it. Sweeps the battleground states.

MATTHEWS: At what point does this become a popular vote election where the electoral decisions state by state really are overwhelmed by the national surge?

TODD: If Romney moves. It could happen. It would only happen in the Romney direction.

MATTHEWS: If he has hard movement the next two weeks as he had two weeks ago, is he the winner? Is he the winner?

TODD: Yes.

MARTIN: Yes, absolutely.

TODD: Absolutely, yeah. If that moved that way, sure.

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