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July 20, 2011, 9:52 p.m.

A CNN/Time/Opin­ion Re­search Corp. poll; con­duc­ted 10/1-5; sur­veyed 585 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.0% (re­lease, 10/6). Tested: Sen. Chuck Schu­mer (D) and ex-GOP con­sult­ant Jay Town­send (R).

Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom C. Schu­mer 57% 945 23% 49% 52% 63% J. Town­send 41 6 76 47 47 34 Oth­er 1 — — 1 — 1 Neither 1 — — 1 1 1 Un­dec 1 — 1 1 — 1

(For more from this poll, please see today’s NY SEN, NY GOV and NY In The States stor­ies.)

The Town­send

A Pub­lic Policy Polling (D) (IVR) poll; con­duc­ted 10/1-3; sur­veyed 592 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.0% (re­lease, 10/6). Party ID break­down: 48%D, 32%R, 21%I. Tested: Schu­mer and Town­send.

Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom C. Schu­mer 59% 86% 28% 47% 56% 63% J. Town­send 37 11 71 49 41 34 Un­dec 3 4 2 4 3 4

Schu­mer As Sen.

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom Ap­prove 57% 82% 30% 42% 54% 60% Dis­ap­prove 35 11 62 48 41 29

Fav/Un­fav

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom J. Town­send 22%/16% 10%/20% 37%/12% 27%/14% 23%/19% 21%/13%

(For more from this poll, please see today’s NY SEN and NY In The States stor­ies.)

Look­ing at the broad­est num­bers in the pres­id­en­tial race, things don’t look too bad for Mitt Rom­ney.

In the latest-avail­able trend es­tim­ate (a fancy weighted av­er­age) of na­tion­al polls com­piled by Huff­Post Poll­ster, Rom­ney leads Pres­id­ent Obama by one-tenth of a per­cent­age point, 45.8 per­cent to 45.7 per­cent — a stat­ist­ic­ally in­sig­ni­fic­ant ad­vant­age, but his first lead in the poll av­er­age this year. Real­Clear­Polit­ics.com’s more tra­di­tion­al av­er­age of na­tion­al polls still shows Obama ahead, but by just 1.6 points, 46.6 per­cent to 45 per­cent. Huff­Post Poll­ster and Real­Clear­Polit­ics both show Obama’s job-ap­prov­al rat­ings as up­side down: Huff­Post Poll­ster finds that 49.2 per­cent dis­ap­prove of the pres­id­ent’s per­form­ance, while 45.9 per­cent ap­prove; RCP has 47.1 per­cent of re­spond­ents dis­ap­prov­ing, and 47.9 per­cent ap­prov­ing.

Yet, from watch­ing the news or listen­ing to chat­ter about the race, Rom­ney doesn’t seem to be in that strong of a po­s­i­tion. Even be­fore his rather im­pol­it­ic words in Lon­don last week, voters in swing states were be­ing treated to at­tacks on his ca­reer at Bain Cap­it­al, news of his off­shore per­son­al in­vest­ments, and calls for him to re­lease more than two years of his in­come tax re­turns. In Huff­Post Poll­ster’s trend es­tim­ate on his fa­vor­ab­il­ity, Rom­ney has a 40 per­cent fa­vor­able rat­ing and 45 per­cent un­fa­vor­able rat­ing; Real­Clear­Polit­ics shows his rat­ings even at 43.1 per­cent on both sides of the ledger. But more to the point, us­ing Huff­Post Poll­ster’s poll av­er­ages in in­di­vidu­al states, Rom­ney has a lead in only one of a dozen battle­ground states, North Car­o­lina (by 2 points). Mean­while, Obama is ahead in the oth­er 11, with leads ran­ging from as small as 1 (Flor­ida), 2 (Vir­gin­ia), and 3 points (Col­or­ado, Iowa, and New Hamp­shire), to as wide as 4 (Ohio), 5 (Michigan and Nevada), 6 (Min­nesota and Wis­con­sin), and 7 points (Pennsylvania). It’s pretty clear the pic­ture in the battle­ground states isn’t ex­actly the same as the one na­tion­wide, and one might sur­mise that Obama seems to be faring bet­ter in the states where the ad­vert­ising is the hot­test and heav­iest than he is over­all.

My hunch is that the polling dis­par­ity has more to do with the Obama cam­paign’s at­tacks on Rom­ney’s busi­ness and per­son­al fin­ances, but I found it in­ter­est­ing that while sit­ting in a Nevada hotel room on a re­cent night watch­ing a Law and Or­der: SVU mara­thon on cable (I couldn’t bear to watch the dread­ful open­ing ce­re­mon­ies of the Olympics) that I saw 12 Obama ads over sev­er­al hours of view­ing and not a single Rom­ney or pro-Rom­ney ad. Ap­par­ently, his cam­paign has yet to be­gin mak­ing any loc­al cable buys in swing states — a rather odd de­cision, in my view.

But Rom­ney has a chance to hit the re­set but­ton with his vice pres­id­en­tial pick. It’s not that his choice it­self is likely to make that much dif­fer­ence, un­less it’s a bad one, but it is likely to be­gin a new and dif­fer­ent nar­rat­ive, shift­ing the fo­cus away from his fin­ances and his crit­ic­al re­view of the United King­dom’s hand­ling of pre­par­a­tions for the Lon­don Olympics, and that’s prob­ably a good thing. It’s highly un­likely that he will an­nounce a game-chan­ging pick — my odds are that there’s a 40 per­cent chance each of former Min­nesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Port­man of Ohio get­ting the nod and only a 20 per­cent chance of it be­ing someone dif­fer­ent — but it will change the sub­ject, at least for a time.

Of course, Rom­ney may sur­prise us, but his mod­us op­erandi cer­tainly would ar­gue for him pick­ing someone who would be seen as a ser­i­ous adult with strong ex­ec­ut­ive ex­per­i­ence, someone who em­phas­izes com­pet­ence, not someone who would be seen as a blatantly polit­ic­al pick. It doesn’t ap­pear that either Pawlenty or Port­man would move the needle much, even in their home states. So the se­lec­tion of either would be more of a move to re­in­force a cent­ral mes­sage of com­pet­ence and ex­ec­ut­ive abil­ity — Pawlenty as a suc­cess­ful two-term gov­ernor, Port­man as a former budget dir­ect­or and U.S. trade rep­res­ent­at­ive on top of his ser­vice in Con­gress and do­ing le­gis­lat­ive af­fairs in the George H.W. Bush White House. Ar­gu­ably Pawlenty’s life story — son of a truck driver, grow­ing up in the shad­ows of the South St. Paul stock­yards — is an ap­peal­ing story that would off­set Rom­ney’s more priv­ileged back­ground, while Port­man might of­fer him more help start­ing from Day One in of­fice thanks to ex­tens­ive Wash­ing­ton ex­per­i­ence that neither Rom­ney nor Pawlenty pos­sesses.

So don’t look for a game-chan­ging run­ning mate pick, but maybe one who could al­ter the cur­rent story line, which ob­vi­ously hasn’t been a good nar­rat­ive for Rom­ney.

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