Monday’s official events at the Republican National Convention have been wiped out by Isaac. I don’t think there is a person at the RNC, the Romney-Ryan campaign or in the press corps who thinks it is a real loss. Ann Romney previously was rescheduled for Tuesday, and the Monday night speakers can be slotted elsewhere or simply dropped (might the pro-Todd-Akin Mike Huckabee be among the casualties of Isaac?)
In any event, there will be many bored journalists and many happy merchants and barkeeps on Monday. It will give the media time to ponder the state of the race and consider what’s important and what’s not.
Todd Akin would fall into the “not important” category for the presidential race but quite critical for control of the Senate. In the recent Mason-Dixon poll Akin has slipped to nine points back. More important, he trails among independents by 17 points, and his unfavorables are up to 56 percent. Voters by a 47 to 37 percent margin think he should drop out. That is the same split among Republicans. But Akin isn’t affecting Mitt Romney, who lead by seven points in the same poll.
Despite Democrats’ attempt to Akinize Romney, Missouri voters differentiate between the two. I don’t know when a week or so of polling like this will convince Akin to get out, but if he doesn’t, the GOP will have to write off this seat and focus on other hotly contested races.
As for the presidential race, with small gradations multiple polls show the race tied nationally, which is to be taken with a grain of salt since the battleground states are where the action is. Within the national poll numbers, however, the Romney-Ryan ticket has cause for optimism.
Take the Politico poll just released. President Obama is up by one point (statistically insignificant), but the pollster tells us: “Voters continue to hold mainly negative views of the country’s direction and financial situation. A majority (59%) say the country is on the wrong track, and only 26% say the economy is getting better. A plurality (44%) say the economy is getting worse, which is an increase of +7 points since June of this year.” Even more problematic for Obama are these findings:
Voters give President Obama weak ratings when it comes to the economy. A plurality (45%) say his economic policies have made the economy worse, and a majority (54%) say Obama does not fully understand how to fix the economy. When asked this of Romney, a plurality (46%) also say he does not fully understand how to fix the economy.
A strong majority of voters see an impact from the rising federal debt, with a majority saying that the economy (67%) and they/their own family (53%) are extremely or very impacted by the debt. When it comes to plans for lowering the debt, a majority say Obama does not have a plan to lower the debt, while a plurality say Romney does.
Voters seem to like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as well. (“Half (49%) of voters have seen, read, or heard something about Paul Ryan’s economic budget plan. Among those who are aware of it, a majority (52%) favor the plan, while 42% oppose it. Support for the plan is at majority level among Independents (55%) and seniors (54%).”) And voters approve of efforts to fix Medicare (67 percent say major or minor changes are needed) but think Obamacare has been harmful to the program (46 to 34 percent)
All of this boils down to some simple takeaways for the Romney-Ryan camp. Ignore the invitations to plunge into Akin or social issues more generally. Focus on the economy and on the ticket’s specific plans to fix the economy and pare down the debt. And finally, make the case that Obama has been AWOL on the big fiscal issues (e.g. reforming Medicare, controlling spending). If the race is fought on this turf, the Romney-Ryan team is in good shape..