The latest Post-ABC News poll suggests that voters may like President Obama but dislike how he’s doing his job.
On one hand, Obama’s is in negative territory on his handling of the economy and gas prices (54 and 62 percent, respectively, disapprove). The vast majority of respondents (76 percent) think we are still in a recession. The president’s approval rating on foreign affairs is narrowly positive (47 to 44 percent).
Mitt Romney gets higher marks on his ability to handle the economy, the deficit and energy policy. Obama gets higher marks on topics such as protecting the middle class, taxes and social and “women’s” issues.
The also public rates Obama higher than Romney on personal attributes, including being a strong leader and being more likeable.
Months before the conventions, the debates and the election, the poll, I would suggest, is more helpful in telling the candidates where their strengths and weaknesses lie than as a predictor of the November results.
From Romney’s perspective, the poll suggests that he should eschew personalized attacks on the president and, as he has done, argue that Obama just isn’t getting the job done. Romney is right to focus on the big issues where the public is already dissatisfied with the president (the economy and energy). The data also suggest that Obama’s pitch that the economy is recovering will meet with a skeptical audience.
It is not surprising that Romney, given the pummeling he’s taken in the primary and the media coverage of him as a sort of Monopoly man for the 21st century, will have some work to do in refurbishing his personal image. His gender gap with women suggests that he needs to remind voters that the guy who wants women to stay home, thinks contraception is harmful and doesn’t like prenatal testing is the other Republican.
All of these results are subject to the performance of the candidates and to unfolding events. Would Obamacare’s demise undermine Obama’s leadership credentials? Would a conflagration either between Syria and its neighbors or Israel and Iran bolster or weaken Obama’s foreign policy ratings? It is noteworthy that about half the polling period took place before the latest job numbers were revealed. And right or wrong, Obama is likely to be judged on whether he meets his own goals of reducing unemployment and guiding the economic recovery.