2012: It’s the economy, stupid (part 247)

August 27, 2012

TAMPA -- Despite a series of struggles of late -- ranging from a less-than-stellar foreign trip to controversy over his vice presidential pick -- former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has pulled into a dead heat with President Obama in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.


And the reason, according to the guts of the poll, is simple: the economy stinks and people don't think the current occupant of the White House can make it better.

To wit:

* 56 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing on the economy while just 43 percent approve.

* Nearly six in ten voters (58%) say they are "not confident" that the economy will improve if Obama is elected to a second term. Fifty-two percent of the sample express a lack of confidence in Romney's ability to get things back on the right economic track.

* Fifty percent say they trust Romney more to handle the economy while 43 percent name Obama.

Numbers like those make clear just how difficult the challenge for Obama to win in this political environment really is.  Even as Obama has seemed to win the tactical, day-in-day-out fight of the last few months, the race has moved -- albeit it marginally -- in Romney's direction nationally.

What the Post-ABC numbers make crystal clear is that the still struggling economy amounts to a huge political weight around President Obama's ankles.  No matter how much Romney seems to struggle with the blocking and tackling of the campaign, the currents of the electorate continue to keep him close (or even ahead).

The numbers also suggest that this may well be an election where what happens in the campaign plays a decidedly minor role while the broad backdrop on which the race is fought is close to determinative. Put more simply: Obama could win the day-to-day part of the race and still lose on November 6.

GOP gets bump in Ohio: A new Columbus Dispatch Poll in Ohio shows both the presidential race and Senate race are essentially tied.

Romney tops Obama by less than one-quarter of 1 percent (each rounds to 45 percent), while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) leads state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) by just less than 1 percent (each rounds to 44 percent).

Both results are significantly better for Republicans than most recent polling has shown -- particularly the Senate race, which has sometimes polled a double-digit lead for Brown.

A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed Obama up six points and Brown up seven.

Fixbits:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says the convention will proceed as scheduled on Tuesday after Monday's events were canceled.

A new national survey from GOP pollster the Tarrance Group shows Obama leading Romney 47 percent to 46 percent.

Romney again hails the mandate portion of his Massachusetts health care bill -- which suggests that his campaign's move to start talking about the bill a few weeks back wasn't a fluke. Romney sought to differentiate his bill from Obama's by noting that it didn't cut Medicare or raise taxes.

Ron Paul explains why he turned down a deal to speak at the GOP convention -- because the Romney campaign wanted to vet his remarks and get a full-fledged endorsement of Romney. “It wouldn’t be my speech,” Paul told the New York Times. “That would undo everything I’ve done in the last 30 years. I don’t fully endorse him for president.”

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) accuses Republicans of using "coded messages."

Romney says his overseas accounts didn't help him avoid taxes.

Ex-Republican former Florida governor Charlie Crist endorses Obama.

new Mason-Dixon poll of the Missouri Senate race shows half of Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) supporters want him to drop his campaign. His favorability rating is an astounding 17 percent positive and 56 percent negative, and he trails Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) by nine points.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching attack calls against 20 House Republicans tying them to Akin and his comments about "legitimate rape."

A new ad from Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren plays up women's issues.

A new ad from Rep. Mazie Hirono's (D-Hawaii) Senate campaign hits GOP opponent and former governor Linda Lingle (R) for "misleading negative ads."

Must-reads:

"The political evolution of Mitt Romney" -- Michael Kranish, Boston Globe

"Romney Adopts Harder Message for Last Stretch" -- Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times

"Ron Paul’s fans throw a party without guest of honor" -- Jason Horowitz, Washington Post

"Joementum: Biden prepares for 2016" -- Noam Schreiber, The New Republic

"A conversation with Jeb Bush, Florida's most respected Republican" -- Adam C. Smith, Tampa Bay Times

"Despite Democrats’ Warnings, Private Medicare Plans Find Success" -- Robert Pear, New York Times

"A Party of Factions Gathers, Seeking Consensus" -- Adam Nagourney, New York Times

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Chris Cillizza · August 26, 2012