I’ve been arguing that virtually all of what media are obsessing over — Bain outsourcing, Mitt Romney’s departure from Bain and Romney’s tax returns — is irrelevant to voters, at least those whose minds aren’t already made up. Little did I know how accurate I was.
Both polls suggest that President Obama is getting killed on the economy. He may be running against Romney, but the economy is beating him down. In the CBS/NYT poll, nearly two in three voters think that Obama contributed to the bad economy. Only 38 percent approve of his handling of the economy, while 55 percent disapprove. Romney beats Obama 49 to 41 percent on handling the economy. And 71 percent say that the economy is “bad.”
There is plenty of evidence that Obama’s negative onslaught has not damaged Romney and instead may have backfired. In the CBS/NYT poll Obama’s (36/48) favorable/unfavorable split is worse than Romney’s (32/36). In Fox’s poll, Obama’s unfavorables (46 percent) are also higher than Romney’s (40 percent).
In the Fox poll, a plurality think that Romney has created more jobs than Obama, and despite weeks of negative ads they have a positive view of Romney’s business experience( by a 50 to 40 percent margin). A plurality thinks that Romney is telling the the truth about Bain and a plurality thinks that Obama is not.
The Fox poll also suggests that Romney is closer to the thinking of most Americans when it comes to too much reliance on government (75 percent), government is the problem (64 percent) and opposing raising taxes in an economic downturn (72 percent).
What do we learn from all this? My July panic hypothesis seems to be right.
First, Obama is pummeling Romney, but it hasn’t moved the numbers in his favor and in fact the negatives are up. If I am an Obama donor, I see $100 million thrown down the drain. Why send good money after bad?
Second, Romney is right to focus on the economy and to minimize distractions. Voters are giving Obama ownership of the economy after three years, and they think that he’s making things worse. Telling them that Romney outsourced jobs at Bain doesn’t change that.
Third, Romney is right to jump on Obama’s fascination with collectivism because this fills out the picture as to why the economy is still so rotten. In other words, voters are convinced that the economy is bad and Obama’s making it worse, while Romney offers up a confirming explanation tying Obama’s hostility to wealth-creators to the state of the economy.
As I suspected, most of the punditry of late has nothing to do with the actual race. Most of the criticism of Romney and the advice being spooned out is off base. This election is going to be won or lost on the economy and on Romney’s ability to convince voters that things won’t get better unless we dump Obama. Right now he has a receptive audience.