In its first survey since Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, a Fox News poll contains mostly good news for Mitt Romney. That said, we don’t know if it’s an outlier or a harbinger, and I repeat my admonition that polls months before voters go to the polls aren’t all that predictive.
So for what it is worth, the survey has Romney leading the president 46 to 44 percent. President Obama’s approval is at a new low of 42 percent. Romney leads 46 to 39 percent on who is most trusted with the economy. Sixty-eight percent think Obama’s policies have either not done anything or have hurt the economy. Romney leads among independents by 6 points. (Maybe those debates didn’t exact as much damage as Democrats would like us to believe.)
In the cross tabs we see that each candidate has the same level of support within his party, 85 percent. Romney trails by 8 among women and leads by 14 percent among men. (The poll finished just before Rosengate hit.) Maybe “Romney will have problems with the base” is more media spin than reality.
We will see if these results are duplicated elsewhere. But for now, forget about the top-line horse race number. What would be troubling for Obama is if voters in the weeks and months ahead regard him as ineffective or unhelpful on the issues about which they care the most (e.g., the economy, the debt).
My working hypothesis has been that Romney is potentially a better general election than primary election candidate. This poll suggests that is the case: He is holding his base and winning among independents. Suddenly, the lack of conservative rhetoric, the ideological flexibility and the pragmatic streak may become assets.
Considering all the chatter about how weak a nominee Romney purportedly is and how high his negatives have gone, these poll numbers should come as a great relief to him. But he shouldn’t get too excited unless the results are duplicated elsewhere and continue over time.