Narratives can be stubborn things. For most of this election, President Obama has been cast as the more likable candidate, while Mitt Romney has been stereotyped as the candidate likely to pander. But two new polls show that those perceptions may be off-base.
The latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s Romney that has an edge over Obama on personal favorability. Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 50/41, an edge over the president’s 52/46 score. It’s proof that favorability is a volatile data point, especially when it comes to a lesser-known presidential challenger.
While political junkies are tracking every move of the candidates, most Americans are just beginning to tune in to the campaign coverage, and forming their opinions of Romney. (It’s a big reason why Team Obama went up so early with a two-minute ad trying to cast Romney’s record at Bain in the most unfavorable light possible.)
Meanwhile, the CBS News/New York Times survey showed that voters overwhelmingly believe that Obama decided to come out in favor of gay marriage for political reasons, and not out of principle. Two-thirds of those said Obama made the decision “mostly for political decisions,” with just 24 percent saying “because he thinks it’s right.” This, as the president’s reelection team has cast his decision as an historic one that took much political courage.
Obama’s campaign has been throwing the kitchen sink at Romney lately, taking advantage of the Washington Post story portraying him as a high school bully and airing ads casting him as a heartless capitalist -- yet his favorable numbers haven’t yet suffered. It’s a reminder that Romney’s numbers were being held down earlier by conservatives who hadn’t yet warmed to him as the nominee in the middle of the primary fight. Now that they’re on board, Obama and Romney look to be on similarly favorable footing.
—Josh Kraushaar, Hotline executive editor
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Romney Aide Defends Wall Street Practices
[National Journal, 5/15/12] Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom today defended the practices of Bain Capital, JP Morgan Chase, and other financial firms, saying attacks by the Obama campaign are just a distraction from his own economic record. But Politico asks, is Romney ready for the Bain battle?
Obama Family Assets Worth At Least $2.6 Million
[Associated Press, 5/15/12] According to financial disclosures released today, the Obamas hold assets valued between nearly $2.6 million and nearly $8.3 million.
Pro-Obama Super PAC Attacks Romney's Record at Bain Capital
[National Journal, 5/15/12] A super PAC supporting Obama’s reelection, Priorities USA Action, on Tuesday launched a TV and social media campaign to slam Romney’s record in the private sector. The TV spot, entitled “Heads or Tails,” is the first in a series of a $4 million campaign running in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Bill Clinton 'Feels Sympathy' for Romney
[National Journal, 5/15/12] Bill Clinton, who has seen an outspoken surrogate for Obama on the campaign trail, said he didn't know how Romney was going to succeed campaigning on the budget he offered in the primary.
George W. Bush Backs Romney
[National Journal, 5/15/12] On Tuesday, former President George W. Bush came out with an endorsement in favor of Mitt Romney, joining his brother and father in backing Romney.
Paul Supporters to be 'Respectful' at Convention
[National Journal, 5/15/12] A spokesperson for Ron Paul, who on Monday said he was suspending active campaigning, said that Paul's fan base will be represented at the Tampa convention by the hundreds but the campaign is "emphasizing decorum."
New Presidential Polls Puncture Conventional Wisdom
[National Journal, 5/15/12] Though many believe Obama to be the more favorable candidate, recent polls may undercut that perception, indicating that favorability is more volatile than we might think.
Romney Will Focus on Federal Deficit in Des Moines Visit
[Des Moines Register, 5/14/12] For the first time since the Iowa caucuses, Romney will be in the Hawkeye State for a speech on the federal deficit. Ahead of the speech, the Romney campaign released a Web video highlighting struggling Iowans. However, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, formerly the governor of Iowa, pointed to the state’s strong 5.5 percent unemployment rate.
A 30,000-Foot View on the Presidential Race
[New York Times, 5/15/12] Polls show a narrowing race between Romney and Obama, but Nate Silver says the real number to be watching is the president’s approval rating. Silver also takes a closer look at polling methodology.
How to Act Human: James Lipton Has Advice for Romney
[New York Magazine, 5/15/12] Yes, that James Lipton. The host of Inside the Actors Studio reveals that he’s woken himself in the middle of the night trying to come up with advice for Romney. First things first: Lose that laugh -- “a device he employs at odd moments and in a most peculiar way.” There's lots more.
The Marriage Trap
[Slate, 5/15/12] Eight years ago, Republicans were more than happy to make gay marriage a wedge issue, argues William Saletan. Now that it hurts them --and Romney -- they call it “divisive.”
Third-Party Group to Huddle After No Candidate Emerges
[CNN, 5/15/12] Americans Elect, the promised beacon for those seeking a third-party candidate, has one small problem: They don’t have a candidate. The deadline for voters to choose a candidate online was Tuesday, and the group failed to reach its goal despite getting on dozens of state ballots for November. How will the group rebound from here?
The Obama-Jamie Dimon Saga
[Politico, 5/15/12] The CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the company hit with a stunning $2 billion loss disclosed last week, was once one of Obama’s most prominent Wall Street friends -- a rare high-profile Democrat in an industry dominated by low-tax, free-market Republicans. Meanwhile, the president said in an interview with ABC’s The View that aired on Tuesday morning that he believes the loss is evidence of why financial regulatory reform is needed. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this item incorrectly reported when JPMorgan Chase disclosed its recent losses.
Romney Closer to Nomination With Oregon Primary
[Associated Press, 5/15/12] Oregon and Nebraska hold their primaries today -- though Nebraska is little more than a beauty contest. Twenty-five delegates are at stake in Oregon, and Romney is just 171 delegates shy of the nomination.
Jay-Z Still Has Obama's Back
[CNN, 5/14/12] In what might be the (not-so) surprise of the political cycle, rapper Jay-Z says he still backs President Obama's reelection campaign. He supports the president’s decision to endorse same-sex marriage, saying that the laws to the contrary are “discrimination plain and simple.” Not only does Jay-Z’s music appear on Obama’s iPod, but he and his wife, Beyoncé, have visited the White House.
A Fond Farewell to Ron Paul, Who's Not Really Leaving
[New York Times, 5/14/12] After spending around $34 million to accumulate 104 delegates, Ron Paul finally announced that he will no longer spend campaign money in the GOP race -- but he’s not actually dropping out. The Times’ Andrew Rosenthal writes that he can’t help but admire the Texas congressman.
Romney Medicare Plan Draws Sharp Contrast
[New York Times, 5/15/12] Both Romney and Obama say their opponent’s policies would end Medicare as it now exists. Under Romney’s plan, government would contribute a fixed amount of money on behalf of each beneficiary, and future beneficiaries could use the money to buy private insurance or to help pay for traditional Medicare.