Posted on | July 30, 2012 | 19 Comments
The Republican National Convention begins Aug. 27, which is now just four weeks away. More importantly, we are now inside the final 100-day window of the 2012 presidential campaign. This is as good time as any to ask, “Where does the race stand?”
Today on Morning Joe — I watch MSNBC so you don’t have to — Chuck Todd got under my skin by asserting that Mitt Romney “lost” June and July by failing to establish his narrative or something. This assertion struck me as preposterous, so I checked the Real Clear Politics average of national polls to examine the trend:
On Feb. 18, while Romney was in the midst of the toughest part of the GOP primary fight, Obama stretched out to his biggest lead of the year, 6.1 points (49.3% to 43.2%). Obama continued to lead Romney by a sizeable margin through the spring campaign: 5.2 points (49.5-44.3) on March 7, and 5.3 points (48.5-43.2) on April 10, the day Rick Santorum quit the race, effectively ceding the nomination to Romney.
In the aftermath of Santorum’s exit, as might be expected, the race quickly tightened, as GOP-leaning voters rallied to Romney. By May 8, the race was nearly tied: Obama 46.2, Romney 46.0.
Since May, the RCP margin has widened slightly: Obama is at 46.6 and Romney is at 45.0. That’s mainly because the Obama campaign unloaded tens of millions of dollars of negative ads against Romney, an early spending spree that has caused Democrats concern because (a) it is so clearly unsustainable and (b) June FEC numbers showed Romney and the GOP are now strongly out-fundraising Obama and the Democrats.
Thus, the minor gain for Obama in the past two months — moving the RCP average a net 1.4 points in his favor — was a good news/bad news scenario for him: Yes, the barrage of ads raised Romney’s negatives, rallied Democrats and established the predicate for future attacks. However, this success came at a steep cost, and a price that Obama simply can’t afford to keep paying. When the stretch run begins after Labor Day, Obama won’t be able to outspend Romney, certainly not at the 2-to-1 pace of June. Furthermore, once you start digging down in the internals of polls, you see that Obama’s attacks didn’t do much to move independent voters, who still have very negative views about Obama’s handling of the economy — the No. 1 issue, and one that seems to be going from bad to worse for the incumbent.
Everybody understands the basic strategies of each side: Republicans want the election to be a referendum on Obama’s first term, while Democrats want to make the election a choice between the incumbent and the (demonized) Romney.
This referendum-or-choice battle to shape the narrative is really what the 2012 campaign comes down to. So who is winning that battle?
Forget Romney for a minute and look at the president’s numbers in the RCP average: He has steadily drifted downward from nearly 50 percent in February-March to below 47 percent now. These are perilous numbers for an incumbent because (as everybody knows) late-deciding voters tend to break toward the challenger. Having checked the numbers, I sent a few Twitter messages to Chuck Todd:
Now, let me make clear: I like Chuck Todd. He is a solid political reporter and less biased toward Democrats than many other major-media journalists. But to say Romney “lost” June and July? Sorry, Chuck: Doing stenography for David Axelrod isn’t reporting.
The latest Gallup tracking poll has the race a tie, and the latest Rasmussen tracking poll has Romney up by 3 points. If Romney keeps “losing” at this rate, he’ll “lose” all the way to the White House.
Regardless of what the economists say, most Americans believe we are in a recession and have been for more than four years. Despite that dismal starting point, just 40 percent think things will get better in five years.
This suggests that underlying perceptions of the economy have taken a darker turn. Back in 2009, most Americans thought the country was experiencing a normal business-cycle recession. It was harsher than most but expected to be a short-term matter. Throughout 2009, a plurality of Americans thought the economy would be better within a year.
Now, a plurality believes it will get worse over the next year, and many Americans are wondering if our nation will ever make it back. Only 14 percent now believe today’s children will be better off than their parents. That’s an all-time low.
Hope of a recovery under Obama is fading. All Romney needs to do is convince voters he would not be worse than Obama, and Mitt wins.
UPDATE II: OK, let’s suppose Chuck Todd wants to shrug off Rasmussen’s analysis. How about Jeff Jones of Gallup?
Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address. Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns.
Issues that favor Republicans easily outrank issues that favor Democrats. You cannot look at numbers like that and say Romney is losing.
- July 29: Tina Brown’s Bankrupt Magazine Newsweek Calls Mitt Romney a ‘Wimp’
- July 27: ‘Abysmal Failure’
- July 24: Axelrod’s Nixonian Manipulations: Tax Flap Is About Mitt’s Mormon Millions
- July 23: Romney Slams Obama: ‘An Upside-Down Philosophy That Does Not Comport with the American Experience’
- July 23: Obama Campaign: Money for Nothing
- July 18: VIDEO: New Mitt Romney Ad Slams Obama’s Wasted Stimulus Money