After a week of new polling on the presidential race, the battle lines appear to be taking shape. Barack Obama is winning the clash of overall visions, values and priorities, and decisively beats Mitt Romney on a variety of personal attributes. Romney seems to have staked out an edge when voters are asked who best can turn the economy around — which suggests the battle over which man is perceived as having more basic competence could still loom large.
Today’s NBC/WSJ poll finds Obama beating Romney by 49-43 among registered voters. Obama is besting Romney by big margins on questions such as who is easygoing and likable (54-18); who is compassionate enough to understand average people (52-23); who will look out for the middle class (48-27); who is better on issues of concern to women (49-21); and who is consistent and stands up for his beliefs (41-30).
But Romney bests Obama on who has good ideas for how to improve the economy ((40-34); who will change business as usual in Washington (36-29); and Obama’s approval numbers on the economy are upside down (45-52). Here’s where the battle over competence comes in.
Also: The poll tests a number of different descriptions of the visions the two men have. The one that gets the most support — 76 percent — is this one: “Will fight for balance and fairness and encourage the investments needed to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.” Romney’s vision of free enterprise and small government also does well, but Obama’s vision — for now — carries the day.
Another interesting finding: While 46 percent say Obama has the right set of personal characteristices to be president, only 30 percent say the same about Romney. With Romney having to make up a lot of ground here, this is an area where the battle to define him in the public mind will be waged intensely.
Still unanswered: If Romney clears the basic competence threshold with voters, as seems likely, how important will that prove?
* Can Romney take likeability off the table? Chris Cillizza on Romney’s new strategy to take personal attributes off the table in this election. My guess is that the argument, boiled down, will be: You voted for him last time because you liked him, and what did that get you? Don’t let him sweet talk you again.
But as Cillizza notes, presidential elections are also about personality and values.
* Progressives to turn up heat on ALEC: I’m told that the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is set to launch the next phase in the campaign against the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council today.
The group is holding a conference call of progressive state legislators from arond the country, who will increase pressure on several dozen fellow Democrats who have yet to drop their membership in ALEC. The group has already lost a number of corporate sponsors, has pulled back its involvement in social issues, and is already conceding that it’s getting killed in social media by the left’s onslaught, so today’s focus on legislators could keep the story going.
* Rubio amplifies call for GOP DREAM Act that Romney can support: The Florida Senator is going more and more public with his proposal, still in the works, for a compromise DREAM Act that would give non-immigrant visas to children who grew up illegally in America. And note this key quote from Rubio: “Romney is the leader of the Republican Party now. Our hope is to come up with something that he can be supportive of.”
For now, though, Romney’s immigration adviser Kris Kobach appears to have set a standard for what constitutes an acceptable GOP DREAM Act that will be very tough for Rubio to meet. Which means Romney may have to make a choice Rubio, or Kobach.
* Romney’s dilemma on immigration: Rubio’s DREAM Act creates a problem for Romney:
If Rubio leads his party into an immigration debate, it could revive passions not seen since 2007 when divisive rhetoric and bipartisan opposition helped kill George W. Bush’s comprehensive immigration overhaul by a 46-53 vote in the Senate. But if Rubio puts forward a proposal not sufficient to Latino voters, it could be seen as pandering to a voting bloc that has grown increasingly skeptical of the GOP.
More on this later today.
* Obama re-elect reality check of the day: Has growing economic optimism stalled? Quinnipiac finds that it has: Registered voters say 41-35 that they are worse off than four years ago; independents say the same, 46-32. Only 32 percent of Americans — and the same percentage of independents — say their own situation will improve in the next year.
One bright spot: 53 percent of Americans, and a plurality of independents, say the economy is beginning to recover. As always, in assessing their own situation, the question of whether Americans will factor in the magnitude of the mess Obama inherited will loom large.
* A detailed look at Romney’s problems among women: Charlie Cook dives into this week’s Pew poll and ferrets out where Romney’s support is really coming from — and where it isn’t. Obama’s big edge comes among women under 50, where he’s leading by 18 points. And Romney’s big advantage comes among older and white men.
Conclusion: “it’s women under 50 who are the demographic that either will or won’t put Obama over the top in the general election.” A usful prism through which to view the choices the candidates make.
* Obama’s problems among blue collar men: Steve Kornacki has an interesting look at Obama’s persistent inability to win back working class whites, and at the ways Obama can still win without them. This is a serious problem that threatens Obama’s chances. But if he can win without them, Kornacki notes, it could actually hint at demographic advantages for Dems in the future.
* And the difference between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown: One thing that makes Brown’s continued sneering references to “Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren” particularly interesting is that she is moving to focus the race on the actual issue of the rising difficulties kids face in paying for college. Talk about contrasts...