Chuck Todd: With Strong Debate Tomorrow, Romney 'Could Win This Election'

Something's happening here . . . Last week, Chuck Todd came in for criticism at NewsBusters for sniffing off a Rasmussen poll favorable to Mitt Romney as "slop."  But has yesterday's slop become today's sirloin for the NBC political director?  Sure looks like it.

In a remarkable shift, on today's Morning Joe Todd stated that in recent days he has seen a "structural shift" in the polling data in Romney's favor. With a strong performance at tomorrow's townhall-style debate in which he connects with average Americans, Todd declared that Romney could "win this election" and "close out" President Obama, putting him in a hole too deep to recover from in the final debate.  View the video after the jump.

Watch the video, marking a stunning sea change by a major MSM polling figure who is privy to insider, private polling data.

CHUCK TODD: I do think this debate is -- Mitt Romney's biggest problem, what's the thing that's keeping him from closing the sale? Likability, personal comfort. Is he -- he may not be one of us, but does he understand us? Well, of all the three debates, what's the one where you interact with real people? This town hall debate. You know, for Romney, this is the debate where he could win this election. He could blow up the stereotype that he, you know, can't interact with people, doesn't, you know, have that sort of Bill Clinton gene in him where he knows exactly the right time to put an arm around somebody, exactly the right time to connect with somebody. And that's why it is -- you know, it's more than just the president having to win this debate to stop the bleeding, to change things. But this is the moment -- the first debate was Romney getting into the playoffs. This is the debate where he could almost close it out if it's such a good performance because of the format, right? And because it would help him in this big -- in this one area where he's got the biggest deficit: connecting with the average American.

. . .

TODD: I think we're both being very hesitant to hype this like that. But I feel like this one is that big. Because, you know, there's something that happened in the campaign. It wasn't just that Romney got in with that first debate and it sort of -- you know, at first you heard Democrats saying oh, Republicans are just coming home. And that's what tightened the polls. And in fact, I actually heard some Republicans say that. I have to say, in the private data that I've heard about over the last couple of days and the last 72 hours plus what you're seeing, I feel like there has been a structural shift. We're no longer in this "it's even, but the president has these advantages." The "but the president has these advantages" in the battleground states I think is gone. Yes, the president has an advantage in Ohio, but we're starting to see a consistent Romney, very narrow, but a Romney lead in places like Florida. We're seeing Colorado totally dead even. Iowa closing. So I think that there is something structural that happened. And that's why this debate, critical time. If the president doesn't show  up he could end up in a deficit where I don't know if one more debate could make it up.