For much of the presidential race, polls have shown that Mitt Romney has led Barack Obama on the question of who would do a better job handling the economy — one of the central questions driving this election. I’ve speculated that Obama’s best hope may be to fight Romney to a draw on the economy and broaden the election to turf more favorable to him.
Well, we now have four national polls that show Obama and Romney tied on the question — perhaps suggesting a potentially signfiicant shift in the race’s dynamics:
* The new Fox News poll shows Obama and Romney exactly tied at 46-46 on who would better improve the economy and create jobs.
* This week’s CNN poll finds Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, 50-49, on who would better handle the economy.
* This week’s Post poll finds Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, 47-45, on the same question.
* A Rasmussen poll on Tuesday found Obama and Romney at 47-45 on who is more trusted on job creation.
If the above polling is right, Romney may no longer be enjoying the built in advantage he seemed to have for months. That advantage was that more voters seemed willing to grant him the presumption of economic superiority because of his business background and because he represents an alternative to the chief executive they are disillusioned with due to the sluggishness of the recovery. Now, after both conventions, the two are tied in national polling on who can be more trusted to get the economy back on track.
This again raises the question of whether Romney’s basic theory of this race — that it’s inevitable that Obama will lose, because voters will conclude that he failed on the economy and will opt for an alternative that clears the most basic threshold of acceptability — is fundamentally flawed. As I keep saying here, it’s possible that the true undecided voters may not be concluding Obama failed and are merely disappointed that Obama has not been able to make the recovery go faster but find that understandable, given the severity of the crisis and the depth of our problems. If they have downgraded their expectations as to what a president can do to speed the recovery, they may be less prone to opt in a knee jerk way for whatever alternative is on offer. They may be open to the argument that Romney doesn’t have the answers and that Obama’s approach — despite their disappointment — has at least as good or even a better a chance of working over the long haul. They may also broaden their choice, evaluating the candidates on a range of issues and on their sense of both men’s priorities, values, and understanding of the direction the country needs to take in the future.
Previously, polls suggested that more voters were willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Romney as an economic alternative. The above polling suggests that may no longer be the case.
* No, voters have not concluded Obama failed: Indeed, here’s more confirmation of the above. Nate Cohn ferrets out other crucial findings in the Fox poll :
Just 36 percent of voters give Obama a D or an F on the economy, compared to 38 percent of voters who give him an A or a B. There are a lot of voters with a decidedly mixed view, including 14 percent who give him a “C” and 11 percent who give him an “incomplete,” as the president did himself. ...
50 percent of likely voters say that if Obama is elected, they would feel that “the country’s improving and I look forward to another 4 years” compared to 43 percent who would say “the country’s going down the drain and I’m dreading what is going to happen next.”...
Collectively, these figures are terrible news for the Romney campaign. They have always claimed that their path to victory depended on voters resolving to dismiss the president on the grounds that his economic performance is a resounding failure, but voters appear to be drawing a different conclusion.
Exactly. As I’ve been arguing, this may be the key to understanding this election.
* No, there was no “apology” in the Cairo statement: Post fact checker Glenn Kessler takes apart the argument made by Romney and conservatives that the U.S. Embassy statement “apologized” for anything. There is a great deal of whining today on the right that the media unfairly focused on Romney yesterday, rather than the causes of the event itself. Let me make a suggestion: Perhaps the media saw Romney’s comments as newsworthy because he accused the Obama administration of sympathizing with attackers of U.S. Embassies?
* Associated Press demolishes Romney argument: Good for the AP for putting it right in their headline and lede:
FACT CHECK: Romney misstates facts on attacks
The gunfire at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, had barely ceased when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seriously mischaracterized what had happened in a statement accusing President Barack Obama of “disgraceful” handling of violence there and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
* Obama donors enjoy perks: A must-read by Nick Confessore exposing how politics really works: Obama is more reliant on big donors than last time around, and those donors get rewarded with major perks and in some cases have business before the Obama administration.The most interesting revelation in the piece may be that some 60 donors are in a truly elite club, having raised more $1 million or more for the President and Democrats.
* Obama opens up large lead in Michigan: A new Detroit Free Press poll finds that Obama has opened up a 10 point lead in Romney’s native state of Michigan, which may help explain why Romney-supporting super PACs have pulled their ads out of the state. Key caveat: a large number of independents remain undecided; Romney advisers have said they have not given up there.
Historical footnote: If Romney is to win the presidency, he’ll likely have to be the first president since 1844 (fixed) to get elected while losing both his state of residence (Massachusetts) and his native state.
* How worried is Obama team about Pennsylvania voter ID law? Scott Conroy has a good on the ground report from Pennsylvania, where the courts are set to hear arguments over the state’s stringent voter ID law. As Conroy notes, Obama organizers now tell each voter they encounter that they need to have the right form of ID.
My understanding is that the Obama team views such laws as an issue, but not an insurmountable one; they have merely added another layer to their organizing to deal with it.
* Obama holds advantage on Medicare: An interesting finding in the new Fox poll: Obama leads romney by 51-40 on who is more trusted to protect Medicare and ensure that it’s there for future generations. That is a significant lead, given that one of the core arguments at the foundation of Romney’s entire campaign is that Obama looted Medicare to fund Obamacare.
* And no, 2012 is not 1980, part 974: From Nate Cohn again, perhaps the most extensive piece yet debunking this flawed historical parallel. As Cohn notes, Reagan did not trail Carter all the way through, and unlike Romney he received a big convention bounce that foreshadowed his eventual win. As previously noted, what this comparison really shows is that the Romney campaign thinks it needs a theory of the race that explains why he’s not winning yet.