Bain doesn’t have an image problem. Romney does.

at 07:00 AM ET, 07/25/2012

Mitt Romney may have an image problem, but right now, it’s not because of Bain Capital.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Americans have very little opinion about the company that Romney founded and headed up for nearly two decades, despite a barrage of ads from Democrats and news coverage about the GOP presidential nominee’s tenure there.

The poll shows just 35 percent of Americans express either a positive or negative opinion of Bain — a number only slightly higher than the 28 percent who had an opinion of the company in May, before the onslaught from Team Obama.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney addresses the 113th Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention in Reno, Nev., on Tuesday. (REUTERS/James Glover)

What’s more, their opinion isn’t much more negative than it was back then. Positive reviews of the company have risen from 9 percent to 12 percent over the last two months, while negative ones have risen from 19 percent to 23 percent.

What does seem to have paid dividends for the Obama campaign, however, is its painting of Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy who can’t empathize with regular Americans.

The NBC/WSJ poll shows Romney’s favorable rating (35 percent) is lower than his unfavorable rating (40 percent) — a first for a GOP presidential nominee — and significantly more voters say they don’t identify with Romney’s background and set of values (52 percent) than say they do (42 percent).

And it seems to be getting worse. Forty-three percent say something they’ve heard in the past couple weeks has given them a more negative opinion of Romney, while just 28 percent say something has given them a more positive one. But the poll also suggests that very few of that 43 percent are thinking about Bain Capital when they say that.

Perhaps most illustrative of this fact is another question asked in the poll. In addition to asking the straight favorable/unfavorable question, it asked respondents whether they like each candidate, and then contrasts that wither whether they approve of their policies.

While 67 percent of people said they like Obama, whether or not they approve or disapprove of his policies, only 47 percent say the same of Romney.

That’s a stark difference, and may tell us more about the images of these two candidates than approval ratings of favorable ratings ever could; this strikes us as a more pure and visceral measure of personal likeability (regardless of policy) than the other two measures.

The fact is that Romney is not someone many people see as personally likeable, and Obama is very much the opposite — a likeable person trapped in an unenviable situation. For the Obama campaign, Bain plays a role in driving that point home, but it’s a complicated set of circumstances that most Americans are still undecided about and/or tuning out.

More important than Bain right now are the personal feelings Americans have toward Romney, and if Obama can continue to have a 20-point advantage when it comes to the candidate people actually “like,” he may stand a chance of winning over undecided voters down the stretch.

Obama on defense: Obama’s team, for the first time in a while, found itself on the defense in the day-to-day machinations of the campaign on Tuesday.

Obama’s team first released a new ad in which the president defends his “You didn’t build that” quote, which the right believes to be a major blunder. Then, his team fought back hard against Romney’s charges that Obama has been weak on foreign policy.

Romney, in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., blamed Obama for intelligence leaks in his administration and impending cuts to the military budget.

And Obama’s team fought back hard.

“Today, Gov. Romney had an opportunity to fulfill a long-standing promise by laying out his foreign policy vision and agenda,” Vice President Biden said in a statement released by the Obama campaign. “He had a chance to say how he would lead as Commander-in-Chief. Instead, all we heard from Governor Romney was empty rhetoric and bluster.”

For a campaign that has been fought very much on Obama’s terms in recent weeks, though, it was a step in the right direction for Romney.

Lingle camp hits back at Young endorsement of Hirono: Former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle’s (R) Senate campaign is hitting back at Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) for touting the endorsement of GOP Rep. Don Young (Alaska), who has been the subject of ethics questions.

“It should be troubling to the people of Hawaii that Mazie Hirono’s first attempt to convey any example of bipartisanship is a video advertisement with one of the House of Representative’s most controversial members, who even Mazie’s fellow Democrats have criticized on a range of ethics and spending issues,” Lingle campaign manager Bob Lee said in a statement.

It should be noted that Young’s endorsement was for the primary, where Hirono faces former congressman Ed Case. But judging by the Lingle campaign’s comments, it seems unlikely Young would take Lingle’s side in the general election.

Fixbits:

The Republican National Committee is out with a web video hitting Obama for complaining about the context of his “You didn’t build that” comment.

Obama is cutting ads in the West Wing — a practice that is often frowned upon by good-government groups by not illegal.

An Obama surrogate and state senator from Virginia says Romney is appealing to racists who don’t want an African-American in the White House.

Did Romney call Obama the “current president” or the “corrupt president”?

A new independent poll in Massachusetts shows Sen. Scott Brown (R) trailing Elizabeth Warren (D) 40 percent to 38 percent.

Sarah Steelman has lent her Missouri GOP Senate campaign another $100,000 in the runup to next month’s crowded primary. Steelman has struggled to raise money but remains a frontrunner.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is reserving $3.2 million worth of ad space in Florida for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). The reservations aren’t binding and can be canceled.

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) says in a new ad for his Senate campaign: “I work for jobs, not a party.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is backing off her criticism of the Obama Administration for intelligence leaks, just as her comments are being used by Republicans. Top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom says Feinstein got “ Cory Bookered.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says he will support the Democrats’ plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class but allow the wealthy’s tax cuts to expire.

A new ad from Nancy Cassis, the GOP establishment’s favored write-in candidate for former congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s (R-Mich.) seat, accuses the one candidate on the GOP ballot, Kerry Bentivolio, of being a 9/11 truther.

Sarah Palin endorses former talk radio host Martha Zoller in Georgia’s new 9th district.

Must-reads:

Republicans look beyond Rubio to woo Latinos” — Jordan Fabian, Univision

3 Million Fewer May Be Insured Due to Ruling, Study Predicts” — Robert Pear, New York Times

Obama negative ads could hurt personal popularity” — Beth Fouhy, AP

Democrats Aren’t All on Same Page Before Vote on Bush-era Tax Cuts” — Jonathan Weisman and Jada F. Smith, New York Times

After Colorado shooting, Democrats reluctant to talk gun control” — Paul Kane, Washington Post

 
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