Even with his win at the Supreme Court yesterday, June looked like a rough month for President Obama. The month began with lackluster job numbers and an unforced error — “the private sector is doing fine” — and continued on a downward slope, with the failed recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and the escalating problems in Europe. Obama’s troubles were mirrored in Romney’s apparent success; with the president weakened by events, Romney seemed to be gaining in the race for public opinion. Reporters shifted their coverage of the Republican nominee — describing him as “increasingly confident” — and GOP activists grew more convinced of victory, especially given Romney’s impressive fundraising.
But the polls tell a different story. If you remove outliers from Rasmussen and YouGov, then there has essentially been no change in the national polls since the middle of April. Obama and Romney consistently earn around 47 and 44 percent of the vote, respectively. This doesn’t mean that there’s a floor or ceiling on support for either — economic decline could reverse the totals, and put Romney within striking distance of 50 percent. Likewise, an uptick in economic performance could Obama in a similar position, and lead undecided voters to break in his direction.
Despite the daily obsession over gaffes and other trivia, the race is remarkably stable, and barring disaster on either side, will remain so until the fall, when the news is saturated by election coverage, and voters are almost forced to pay attention. It’s then that we’ll really see how the electorate feels about either candidate. Until that point, however, we — by which I mean the press — should focus on substance. Whether or not Mitt Romney has a concrete plan for fixing the economy is considerably more important than whether he can identify a donut.