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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 09:09 AM ET, 07/25/2012

The Morning Plum: Driving up Mitt Romney’s negatives

Are the Bain attacks working, or are they a bust? Steve Kornacki made a smart point about this yesterday, noting that it’s “possible that Bain will mean nothing to most voters and still end up succeeding as a strategy.”

What Kornacki means is that the broader Obama strategy of attacking Romney over the offshoring and layoffs — combined with the attacks on Romney’s own offshore accounts and refusal to release his tax returns — could end up eroding Romney’s image, even if voters don’t necessarily reach a firm conclusion about the meaning of the Bain years. This is certainly how Dem strategists view the purpose of the Bain attacks.

As I’ve been saying, we won’t know whether this strategy is working until the fall, when undecided voters begin making up their minds based on impressions built up over months. But the new NBC/WSJ poll, which finds Obama leading Romney 49-43, has some suggestive findings:

— Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating is upside down at 35-40.

— A majority, 52 percent, say they don’t identify with Romney’s “background and set of values,” versus 42 percent who do.

— 43 percent say they’ve seen, heard, or read something in the past few weeks that gives them a more negative impression of Romney (though the numbers here are similar for Obama).

Obama’s negatives are also up, but only slightly, and his favorables remain right-side-up. As Mark Murray puts it: “Romney would be the first GOP presumptive presidential nominee since 1996 to head into his nominating convention with a net-negative favorable/unfavorable score.”Murray notes Romney’s “likeability and values deficit.”

Only 23 percent of respondents have a negative view of Bain. But as Kornacki points out, such a narrow finding may not tell us too much. One way the Obama strategy could end up working — and again, it’s too early to say — is by driving up Romney’s negatives and painting a general picture of him as out of touch with ordinary Americans’ background and values. So numbers like the above bear watching to gauge whether the broader Obama strategy is bearing fruit.

The Obama strategy is also about creating a frame for voters to evaluate the policy differences between the two men. They are about making it easier for voters to grasp that Romney would cut deeply into entitlements and government services that help poor and middle class Americans while also cutting taxes deeply on the rich. So another way we’ll know if the Bain attacks are or aren’t working is by looking at how undecided voters begin to view the two men’s policy agendas when they start seriously comparing them this fall.

* Mixed messages on the economy: The NBC/WSJ poll also finds that Romney holds the edge on who has good ideas for improving the economy, 43-36. But 80 percent say they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who will fight for fairness and encourage investments to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class, versus 68 percent who lean towards restoring “economic freedom” and “small government.” And Obama leads on who would fight for the middle class, 49-33.

Romney continues to benefit from the presumption of economic competence, but more seem to approve of Obama’s overall economic vision. However, the poll also shows rising public anxiety about the economy, which is all but certain to be helpful to Romney.

* Chipping away at Romney’s Bain story: The Associated Press keeps at it, revealing this: “according to Bain associates and others familiar with Romney’s actions at the time, he stayed in regular contact with his partners over the following months, tending to his partnership interests and negotiating his separation from the company.”

The more we learn, the less relevant Romney’s claim that he bears no responsibility for the company’s post-1999 activites becomes. Reminder: Bain is refusing to issue a public statement saying that minutes from company board meetings show he had no involvement in them.

* Will a majority of Dems support middle class tax cuts? As Lori Montgomery reports, today the Senate will vote on the Dems’ tax cut plan, and a key question is whether a bare majority of Dems will support continuing low tax rates on all income under $250,000, including that earned by people who make more than that, the “job creators” included.

How many Dems will defect out of fear of being labeled by GOPers as a tax hiker?

* Obama allies hit Romney on outsourcing: The Obama-allied Priorities USA Action is up with a new Olympics-themed TV ad, timed to Romney’s visit to the London games, that hits him for his foreign bank accounts and for the jobs that were offshored by his companies.

“He sure knows how to go for the gold — for himself,” concludes the ad, which will run in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia. Dems will continue using this attack line to undermine Romney’s core case for the presidency, pointing out that his business background was about creating wealth for investors, and not jobs for Americans, as he claims.

* Republicans ramp up Jewish outreach: Sheldon Adelson and other members of the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition have pledged $6.5 million to a new effort to run ads in battleground states to lure Jewish voters away from Obama.

Dems are mixed on the effort, with some predicting that even a little success could make a difference, and others predicting that claims of a “Jewish problem” for the Democratic candidate will not materialize. After all, virtually every recent Dem candidate was supposed to have a “Jewish problem.”

* Elizabeth Warren holds slight lead: She leads Scott Brown by 40-38 in the latest poll, a statistical tie, but the key finding is that 16 percent are still undecided, again suggesting that this race will be close until the very end.

* Cowardly Dems silent on gun control: Paul Kane has a depressing look at how Congressional Democrats are essentially abdicating any responsibility to speak up and make the case for an actual policy response to the Colorado massacre.

As I noted here yesterday, gun control advocates are now struggling to get members of Congress to support the idea that we should do whatever it takes to prevent guns from falling into the hands of felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill.

* Okay, a few brave Dems did stand up for gun control: Meet the four Democratic officials who think that the ongoing massacre of Americans should prompt their elected representatives to try to do something about this problem. Count ‘em — four!

What else?

By  |  09:09 AM ET, 07/25/2012

 
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