A new CNN/ORC International survey has some good and bad news for presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The good news is that his supporters are increasingly willing to get solidly behind him. The bad news is that President Barack Obama has opened up a 7 point lead as Romney’s negatives go up, many voters now doubt that he really can do anything for the economy, and he’s bleeding and independent voter support:
Mitt Romney’s unfavorable rating is up, most Americans think the Republican presidential challenger favors the rich, and the public no longer believes that the economy will get better if Romney is elected, according to a new national poll.
But a CNN/ORC International survey released Thursday also indicates that Romney’s supporters are increasingly getting behind the presumptive GOP nominee.
It all adds up to a seven point advantage for President Barack Obama over the former Massachusetts governor, with 52% of registered voters questioned in the survey saying that they’d vote to re-elect the president and 45% backing Romney.
But the bad news for Romney is this: in an increasingly polarized electorate that thinks the worst of those who don’t agree with their side, Romney is losing the increasingly small but potent sliver of voters who can make the difference in a tight race.
And Romney’s numbers with women voters are dismal:
“Among independent voters, the poll indicates President Obama has a 53%-42% lead,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “The president holds a nine point advantage among women voters and a smaller six point edge among men.”
The good news: he is shoring up his base:
The good news for Romney: Four months after he wrapped up the race for the GOP nomination, 56% of Romney voters say they strongly support him, up from 47% in May. Sixty-one percent of Obama voters say they strongly support the president.
CNN notes that this isn’t just happenstance. The Democrats and Obama have put more than a little bit of work into nudging numbers this way:
Since the start of the general election in April, the Obama campaign and Democratic groups have launched attacks on the presumptive Republican nominee, and the survey indicates that they appear to be working.
While Romney’s favorable rating has remained steady (47% now compared to 48% in July), his unfavorable rating has jumped from 42% last month to 48% now. The president’s 56%-42% favorable-unfavorable rating now is little changed from July.
Among independents, the poll indicates Romney’s image has taken a beating. In May, only 40% of independents had an unfavorable view of Romney. Now, 52% of independents have a negative view of him.
I have repeatedly noted here on TMV that independentes aren’t monolithic. And Romney has given independent voters who are disappointed in Obama little reason to vote for him. He seems to be making little effort to appeal to that chunk of independents, partially because he can’t because he has to keep shoring up his party’s conservative base.
But to many independent voters, Romney is coming across less as someone running for President who has specific solutions and can make an affirmative case for himself than for President of the Tea Party or the Rush Limbaugh Fan Club.
Traditionally candidates move the center; Romney is staying where he was during the primaries and with the recent big Tea Party win in Texas, he’s unlikely to move significantly to the center (especially when the term “moderate” is an authentically filthy word to some in the GOP). MORE:
Other findings: Sixty-four percent of all Americans, and 68% of independents, think Romney favors the rich over the middle class. And 63% of the public thinks Romney should release more tax returns than he has already made public, a figure which rises to 67% among independents.
In other words:
Expect the Dems to keep asking for the tax records.
And expect the press to keep demanding them, too, because this poll confirms it is something the public DOES want to know, the assertions of Sean Hannity et. al to the contrary.
“These are all signs that a summer of negative campaigning on the part of the Democrats seems to be taking its toll on the presumptive GOP nominee,” says Holland.
Most significantly, it appears that Romney’s image as a can-do guy on the economy may have also been hurt. In May, 50% of all Americans said that the economy would get better if Romney were elected. That’s now down to 45%, three points below Obama’s number. It’s likely that all of this is the result of the Democrats’ efforts to paint Romney in an unflattering light, but so far Obama has avoided any blowback from that strategy, as evidenced by no rise in his unfavorable rating.
The bottom line?
Romney can’t keep running a campaign just going after Obama.
He has to start to make a convincing case FOR HIMSELF as a person, as a taxpayer, and as someone who has solutions to the problems — not just complaints about how things are done now. It’s hard to that when he’s running away from details about his record at Bain, not releasing his tax returns, not wanting to talk too much about the specifics of his term as Governor of Massachusetts (and not even reveal what he bought at a hardware store). Obama has things he’d like to run away from, too, but Romney seems to be trying to set a political Olympics record in running away.
Who do Americans think will win the election?
Regardless of which candidate they support, 63% think Obama will win re-election, with one third saying Romney will win.
But before I get (more) emails saying anyone who is a moderate or an independent voter must be a closet second cousin of Michael Moore, note this analysis by The Politico’s Roger Simon who notes that with the lousy economy and other factors Romney should be doing a lot better than he is. Here’s a chunk of some of the key parts:
The unemployment rate under Obama hit a high of 10 percent in October 2009 and has never done better than 8.1 percent during any full month of his presidency. (It was 7.6 percent in January 2009, but Obama didn’t become president until the 20th of that month.)
And as has been pointed out many times, no president since FDR has been reelected with unemployment greater than 7.2 percent.
Further, more than 60 percent of Americans feel the nation is on the “wrong track” under Obama.
I could list other gloomy figures for Obama, but they all leave me with one question: So why is Obama still ahead in the polls? And not just in national polls, but also in key states that are needed for an Electoral College victory.
Shouldn’t Romney be wiping the floor with Obama? By the measurements Romney uses again and again in his speeches — prolonged high unemployment, a failed economy and the unpopularity of “Obamacare” — shouldn’t Americans be rallying around Romney by a significant majority by now?
After all, how long can Romney wait to catch fire? The election is only about three months away. True, Romney gets the opportunity to make a stirring convention speech — but so does Obama. True, Romney gets the opportunity to make an invigorating choice for his running mate, but Obama has already selected Joe Biden, who has shown himself to be a vigorous and popular campaigner.
True, the events that, in my opinion, actually could turn things around — the presidential debates — lie ahead in October. But there is little to suggest that Romney will be a dead-bang winner in those.
As I’ve noted before, don’t always trust the conventional wisdom. Romney did have some strong debate appearances. But Romney’s problem is this: he does well when he does his homework and is programmed — not when he’s thrown a curve ball and has to truly think on his feet or ad lib. Simon on this:
In the Republican primary debates Romney did win, he usually won by appearing more presidential than the others in the very weak and sometimes wacko Republican field. And now Romney will be standing on stage with a real president with almost four years of experience in that office, making it difficult for Romney to lay back and pull off the “more presidential” ploy.
Obama has had the advantage of taking national security — usually a Republican strong point — off the table with the killing of Osama bin Laden and America’s weariness for more lengthy wars of occupation.
But Romney is running on prosperity and lunch-bucket issues, and just about every analyst I have read believes domestic issues will determine the outcome of the November election.
And here’s Simon’s core conclusion:
As I have written for years, I have a simple — OK, simple-minded — way of determining who is going to win the presidency: The more likable candidate wins. Not always, but almost always.
On Aug. 2, a survey published by the well-respected Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found Obama was leading Romney by 51-41 percent for the presidency, the eighth time in a row since January that Obama has led Romney by between 4 and 12 percentage points.
But more importantly by my Simple Simon standard of likability, Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 37/52 compared with Obama’s 50/45. Which means Romney had a net unfavorable rating of 15 points while Obama had a net favorable of 5 points.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post and ABC News released a poll showing 40 percent of voters approving of Romney and 49 percent disapproving. When it came to Obama, 53 percent of voters approved and 43 percent disapproved.
Which gave Romney a net disapproval of 9 points and Obama a net approval of 10 points.
Two different polls don’t exactly establish a solid pattern, but the Romney people must be very, very worried.
Romney said in that Des Moines auditorium, “The American people are tired of being tired.”
But if the recent polls are correct, the American people also may be tired of Mitt Romney.
The bottom line: if he doesn’t wear well in August, how will he wear in November?
Romney may damage the Etch-a-Sketch’s branding for years.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.