Polls Put Romney Back in His Place

After Obama's successes on health care and immigration, the GOP candidate's appeal is shrinking.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

(The Root) -- Despite his Reagan-esque looks, a near-perfect family life and a vast fortune, nobody seems to like Mitt Romney that much. And as the past weeks' political postscript has been written, President Barack Obama has proved the ultimate comeback kid, winning on immigration, health care reform and personal likability. With fewer than 130 days before Election Day, the 2012 race is on. And if recent poll numbers are to be believed, Romney has a lot of catching up to do.

America remains a divided country, but on a few issues public opinion is settled. After six years of running for president, Romney remains a largely undefined personality. His favorable-unfavorable ratings are at a net negative. According to a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, a majority of Romney supporters -- a whopping 58 percent -- say that their vote is against President Obama rather than for Romney. The numbers are especially embarrassing when compared with the 72 percent of Obama's supporters who say that their vote is for the president rather than against Romney.

Gallup polls in May show the president leading Romney in likability by a huge margin, with registered voters nearly twice as likely to approve of Obama as they are Romney: 60 percent to 31 percent. And when those polled were asked which candidate "cares about the needs of people like you" or "agrees with you on issues you care about," Obama continued to trounce Romney.

But Romney has bigger problems than a national popularity contest. In the key battleground states, Obama has widened his lead over Romney, which has broad implications for how independent voters perceive the president's challenger. Among swing-state respondents to the NBC-WSJ poll, Obama leads 50 percent to 42 percent among people living in North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico. These 12 states will inevitably decide who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the numbers just aren't looking good for the former governor.

Equally troubling for Romney is that his favorable numbers in swing states have dropped, from 36 percent (with 36 percent unfavorable) in May to 30 percent (41 percent unfavorable) in June. Pollsters conclude that this is the toll taken by negative ads that Obama's campaign is using to highlight the truth behind Romney's business dealings while CEO of Bain Capital.

In this weakened economy, Romney sought to win over primary voters by selling his successful career in finance as proof that he knew how to create jobs. But as simple research uncovered, what Romney did created wealth for investors and his colleagues, but often at a cost to American workers. Obama and the Democratic National Committee seized on a number of instances in which thousands of factory workers lost jobs as a result of Bain's corporate-raiding practices.

Vice President Joe Biden has recently proved to be a gaffe-proof surrogate, relaying this key message to enthusiastic crowds in Iowa. "He's been very good at creating jobs overseas," Biden said of Romney, "in Singapore, China, India."

Obama and Biden are successfully using Romney's own spurious claims against him by unveiling the shrouded practices of outsourcing and offshoring -- the very tools that delivered Romney extraordinary returns and exorbitant wealth. The effective Obama strategy has left Romney's campaign scrambling for answers, and with responses that are mostly nil.

The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll reflects this, showing high unfavorable ratings for Romney's business background. Thirty-three percent of people said that the more they discover about his corporate-sector experience, the more negatively they view it. Only 18 percent viewed his experience positively.

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