President Obama and Mitt Romney -- his likely competitor for the country’s top job -- have one thing in common: they are both less popular than their wives.
And in the first Post-ABC numbers on Ann Romney, 40 percent of Americans have positive impressions, with fewer, 30 percent, holding negative ones -- and just as many undecided. In our poll last week, her husband, the former governor of Massachusetts, had more detractors than supporters.
These positive numbers likely mean increasingly prominent roles for both women as the general election campaign gets hotter between now and November -- particularly as the opposing sides struggle over female voters.
Casting a backward glance, Michelle Obama is more popular than Hillary Clinton was when her husband sought re-election in 1996, but less widely liked than Barbara Bush in 1992. Her numbers are similar among voters to those of Laura Bush in 2004.
While first ladies are often more popular than their husbands, it’s relatively atypical for a challenger’s wife to be better liked than the candidate himself -- as Ann Romney is now. All potential first ladies are less widely known, but only Kitty Dukakis and Barbara Bush in 1988 and Tipper Gore in 2000 had favorable numbers comparable to their husbands, when first measured.
Among women -- who tend to lean Democratic -- 71 percent in the new poll express favorable views of Michelle Obama, more than triple the number with unfavorable opinions. Women also tilt positive -- although much more narrowly so -- toward Ann Romney. That might prove a boost to Mitt Romney, as women were about 2 to 1 negative on him a week ago.