All but certain Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney is steadily narrowing the gap with President Barack Obama in what promises to be a very close — and very ugly — race for the White House:
Republican Mitt Romney has closed in on President Barack Obama as Americans are more confident in the former Massachusetts governor’s ability to improve the economy, a Pew Research Center poll shows.
While Obama still leads Romney 50 percent to 46 percent among registered voters in the Pew poll released today, the margin narrowed from the seven percentage point advantage Obama had in the organization’s May survey.
That’s a significant narrowing — one that should concern Team Obama.
Romney led Obama, 49 percent to 41 percent, when voters were asked who would do the best job on the economy. The survey also found more pessimism about the country’s economic future as 34 percent of respondents said they expect the economy to improve over the next year — down 10 points from a March poll.
But the poll also found two mixed bags for the candidates:
The Pew survey found declining enthusiasm for Obama among younger voters compared with 2008, and more engagement in the race among Republicans than Democrats. Still, Democrats reported more enthusiasm for Obama than Republicans did for Romney, according to Pew.
“Overall, it’s a tight race and Romney’s big advantage at this point is his lead on improving economic conditions,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew poll
Obama leads Romney on measures of personal qualities, with 50 percent of voters holding a favorable view of the president and 48 percent unfavorable. Voters gave Romney a more unfavorable than favorable view, 47 percent to 41 percent. No candidate in the past two decades has been viewed more unfavorably than favorably at this point in the election cycle, according to Pew’s surveys.
That’s not a good number but the question is a)will the big bucks backing Romney be enough to erase these perceptions or override them with anti-Obama themes and b)are the Democrats smart enough to tug on this loose thread and do it effective despite the likelihood that they’ll be misspent?
Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said Obama “connects with ordinary Americans,” compared with 28 percent who said that about Romney. Half of Americans said Obama has “good judgment in a crisis,” while 37 percent said that of Romney.
For Romney, “this is something that’s a real challenge for him going forward — judgment in a crisis, ability to connect well,” Doherty said. “Even his own supporters are dubious about his abilities on some of these traits.”
One advantage for Romney may be that Republicans say they are paying closer attention to the election, according to Pew, with 73 percent reporting they are giving “quite a lot of thought” to the vote, compared with 66 percent of Democrats. In 2008, Democrats led on that measure.
Also likely: Republicans in the end will vote while some Democrats will decide to teach their party a lesson and stay home (you can still hear some liberal Democrats angrily say Obama should have included the public option on health care reform).
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.