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The electoral picture continues to look grim for Democrats. In the good news category, Obama’s approval ratings have stopped the steep decline that they have been on since May of this year. In the bad news category, the approval ratings have not bounced back either; they remain at roughly 43 percent approving, 51 percent disapproving — ­­dangerously close to a Jimmy Carter-ish netherworld of unelectability.

The outlook for the party as a whole has deteriorated; Intrade lists the Democrats’ 2012 odds of holding the White House, House of Representatives, and Senate at 48, 25, and 25 percent respectively, a notable decrease from last month. If the election were held today, those odds might be even worse, considering Republican Bob Turner recently had a stunning victory over Democrat David I. Weprin to fill the House seat vacated by Anthony D. Weiner. Turner’s victory in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1 bodes ill for the left’s prospects across the nation.

On the Republican side of the coin, Rick Perry’s star has dimmed considerably. It’s not hard to find the reason why: Perry’s performance in the Republican debates have been painfully inarticulate. His failure to put sentences together could not have come at a worse time for his campaign — having declared his candidacy just six weeks ago, now is the time when the media and voters will put the greatest scrutiny on his record and qualifications. Intrade currently gives Mitt Romney a 45 percent chance of securing the nomination, versus Perry’s 26 percent.

However, the real story is not Romney gaining the upper hand against Perry, but rather the intense dissatisfaction Republicans have with their current crop of declared candidates. There is good reason to be dissatisfied; both Romney and Perry lose to Obama in head-to-head polls, even though the president loses when polling against a generic GOP ballot.

A sign of this dissatisfaction is the heavy effort to draw New Jersey governor Chris Christie into the field of candidates. Intrade reports only a 21 percent chance of the governor entering the race, but a 10 percent chance for him to obtain the nomination — suggesting that if the governor chose to run, he would, like Perry before him, become the instant front-runner. Christie, a darling of Tea Party foot soldiers and Republican elites alike, does appear well-positioned to take the nomination, but has thus far adamantly refused to run.

No one is following these developments more closely than Marco Rubio, the freshman senator from Florida, who currently stands as the odds-on favorite to become the Republican vice presidential candidate. Rubio’s youth, eloquence and residence in an important swing state make him an attractive veep prospect for any Republican nominee.

It’s 407 days until Election Day, and this is The State of the Race.

—Keith Yost