In 2008, Obama won Michigan by 16%, Pennsylvania by 10%, and Wisconsin by 14%. It still seems like a bit of a long-shot for Romney to carry any of the three, but if he is close in these states, it would seem to confirm that his position has dramatically improved in states that were always on the target list such as Florida, Ohio, and Virginia — which Obama won by 3%, 5%, and 6% in 2008.

If in fact Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are in play, then an upset in one of them could make up for Romney falling short in one of the three primary target states of Florida, Virginia, and Ohio.

For much of the campaign, President Obama has outperformed in the swing states. In 2008, his margin of victory in the battleground states was about the same as in the national popular vote. This year, Obama has been doing better in the key battlegrounds than with his national numbers due to an early and aggressive negative ad campaign designed to define Mitt Romney for voters before he had the opportunity to do so himself.

Romney was characterized as a tax cheat and avoider, a man who hid his money offshore, and a ruthless capitalist to boot — outsourcing jobs and laying off workers, as well as being responsible for people losing their health insurance and then dying of cancer.

While many pundits assumed that the strong fundraising numbers for Romney and the RNC during the summer meant that Romney was matching Obama’s ad spending in the battleground states, this has not been the case. In Ohio, Obama has aired three times as many spots as Romney, and more than twice as many overall in all the key states. In 2008, Obama outspent McCain 5 to 1 down the stretch. This year has not been quite as high a ratio, but the heavy imbalance has remained. Arguably, the Obama ads have also been more effective in part due to their cavalier disregard for the truth.

President Obama has just capped off a very strong fundraising month in September, pulling in $184 million with the DNC. Romney has not released his fundraising for September, though it can be safely estimated his numbers will badly lag the president’s given the downbeat reporting on his campaign and its problems for most of the month.

The president may need that cash advantage down the stretch now that the battleground map seems to have expanded. To get to 270 Electoral College votes (269 may be enough if the GOP maintains its hold in the House), Romney needs to win North Carolina (15), where he now leads; Florida (29); Virginia (13), where he is about even; and Ohio (18), where he has moved closer. This gets Romney to 266. He would then need  one more state — Colorado (9) or Iowa (6) are probably his best chances for victory. If Romney cannot win Ohio, he needs to come up with 21 or 22 Electoral College votes among Colorado (9), Wisconsin (10), Nevada (6), Iowa (6), and New Hampshire (4).