While the news is mostly good for Romney these days, good news has a way of taking care of itself. Bad news is where you need to focus your attention. In today’s USA Today/Gallup poll, which measures the importance of ten economic issues to voters, there is one piece of clear bad news for Romney: by a margin of 62 to 34, voters believe that Obama cares more than Romney about living standards for the poorest Americans. This foreshadows that Romney could have a problem with the sector of the electorate who could make or break the election - the “working worried”. These are people have a job, but realize there is only a thin thread holding them above the abyss of poverty. And if the worst happens, they wonder who is more likely to make sure they have a safety net. The contest for the hearts and minds of the working worried comes down to “who is going to strengthen my position” vs. “who is going to take care of me if the worst happens”. This particular item in this Gallup poll confirms that Americans have a lot more faith in Obama being there for them in their time of need.
This quandary puts Romney and Republicans in a box. On the one hand, we decry the dependent society that President Obama and the Democrats are encouraging. On the other hand, we don’t want to be portrayed as cruel, offering no help to those who lose their livelihood. The only thing worse than dependency is abject poverty.
Romney needs to reinforce to the working worried that he is going to make their position stronger. He needs to build confidence among voters that he can make the economy stronger and their futures brighter and more secure. Obama benefits when people are frightened and insecure.
This poll is a good reminder to the Romney campaign that their economic plans must be clear and believable so voters will take a chance that things will get better rather than be forced to plan for the worst.