After discovering that his backward looking framing of the race — are you better off than you were four years ago? — isn’t working, the Romney campaign has vowed to place a greater emphasis on what this election means for the next four years. The new frame is: We can’t afford another four years like the last four.
That’s the basis for Romney’s new ad, which features him talking directly to the camera. He allows that both he and Obama care about poor and middle class families — which suggests he is back to running against the good version of Obama, i.e., the nice guy who is in over his head, rather than the bad Obama who wants to take your hard earned money and benefits away and hand it out to those other people. He paints a dire picture of the Obama economy, and says his policies will do better:
The ad perfectly captures the conundrum Romney now faces. Even as he is revamping his strategy as a more forward-looking one, the new New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac swing state polls suggest voters are unlikely to accept what he’s now telling them — about the future, as well as about the past.
The poll does find disappointment in the Obama presidency is running high in Florida (50) and Ohio (51). And solid majorities in both states think the U.S. is worse off or the same today than it was four years ago.
But here’s the key finding: In both states, majorities think the economy is either improving now or will improve under Obama’s policies.
In Florida that number is 56 percent; in Ohio it’s 58 percent. Simply put, the numbers who don’t think the economy will improve under Obama’s policies are too small right now for Romney to win. And get this: 62 percent in Ohio — where there is a significant auto industry presence — think the auto-bailout was mostly a success.
Meanwhile, voters simply don’t accept that Romney would engineer a speedier recovery than the one Obama is overseeing. Obama leads Romney on who is more trusted on the economy in Florida (51-46) and in Ohio (51-45). That mirrors all the recent state and national polling showing Romney’s advantage on the issue has evaporated.
All this reflects how much damage the Obama camp has done to Romney by casting him as a corporate predator who has kept his own taxes low with a web of murky international dealings, thinks cutting taxes on the rich is the solution to all our problems, and can’t be trusted to protect the interests of middle class Americans. The polls find solid majorities in Florida (56) and in Ohio (58) think Romney’s policies will benefit the rich, and not the middle class. And only 41 percent in Florida, and 38 percent in Ohio — where Dems believe Romney has exactly the wrong profile to appeal to the state’s blue collar white population — think Romney cares about their needs and problems. Just brutal.
* Obama widening lead in Ohio and Florida: The toplines of these polls are simply devastating for Romney. Obama is leading in Ohio among likely voters by 53-43, and in Florida by 53-44.
If these are close to accurate, this race could now be slipping away from Romney with increasing speed. And this ground could be difficult to make up, because Obama clears the crucial 50 percent threshold easily in both states.
* Obama leads in multiple categories: The poll finds that in Florida and Ohio, Obama is dominating Romney on handling health care, national security, Medicare, taxes, women’s health, immigration, handling international crises, and foreign policy. The only area where Romney has a small advantage: the budget deficit.
* Obama leading on Mideast issues: Another key finding: Voters are confident in Obama’s ability to make the right decisions about the Middle East. In Florida it’s 53-46; in Ohio it’s 55-44 percent. By contrast, the numbers for Romney are upside down, at 46-51 and 46-52.
Romney has relentlessly highlighted events in Egypt and Libya as proof that Obama is a weak and incompetent international leader. Obama has responded that Romney — as evidenced by his trigger-happy response to the Embassy attacks — is full of vague bluster and belligerence. Obama may be winning the argument.
* Romney haunted by freeloading 47 percent remarks: A new Post poll finds that a majority view Romney’s comments at the fundraiser negatively, 54-32. And even worse, 61 percent of Americans, and 64 percent of independents, now view his whole campaign unfavorably.
* The race is stabilizing in Obama’s favor: Charlie Cook gets the inside word from pollsters in both parties: They think Obama is leading by four or five points, and that Obama can only lose at this point if a major event changes the campaign’s basic trajectory. Also key: They believe “Romney’s negatives remain quite high and are not diminishing.”
* Scott Brown going negative: The New York Times has an in depth look at just now negative Brown’s character attacks on Elizabeth Warren have become. Warren seems to have struggled to respond to some of these attacks, but it’s also possible that Brown’s strategy could backfire by tarnishing his likable image and by revealing him as unwilling to talk about the issues.
Many Dems believe the increasingly negative tone of Brown’s campaign suggests that his internal polling shows him slipping behind.
* Obama cooking facts on the deficit: Glenn Kessler says Obama is misleading people when he blames “90 percent” of the deficit on Bush policies and the economic downturn. The facts about how Bush’s policies continue to affect the deficit are damning enough on their own; no need to embellish them.
* And is the housing market recovering? There are signs it may be doing better heading than many expected, which could indicate rebounding economic optimism heading into the election. But you can bank on it: Political commentators will focus on the September and October jobs numbers as the only metric that matters.