The presidential race is a dead heat, according to the newly released CBS/NYT poll. And for all the attention being paid to the attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital and, more subtly, his wealth, the economy still appears to be the overriding factor.
President Barack Obama trails Mitt Romney, 46 percent to 47 percent.
After weeks of bad news for the presumptive Republican nominee, the poll result would seem to be unexpectedly tight. And the most logical explanation for why Obama has failed to open up a national lead seems to rest on the economic polling data.
Romney leads Obama among respondents by a margin of 49 percent to 41 percent on who can best handle the economy and jobs. People who think the economy is getting better dropped from 33 percent in April to 24 percent now -- owed largely to a series of bad jobs reports.
Obama is perceived as the candidate who can best help the middle class, with 52 percent citing the president on that question, including 15 percent of Republicans. But even then, he gets a heaping of blame for not turning the economy around. Almost two-thirds of respondents said the president's policies contributed to the economic downturn. Only 17 percent of respondents said the president's policies on the economy were "improving it now."
The economy, in short, is drowning out the political conversation surrounding Romney's private equity career, at least on the national level. Romney's years at Bain Capital made 14 percent of voters more likely to vote for him and 23 percent less likely to vote for him. A fuller 60 percent of voters said it didn't matter. Romney's wealth made 5 percent of voters more likely to vote for him, 20 percent of voters less likely to vote for him, and didn't matter to 73 percent.
There are some silver linings for the president's re-election campaign. Fifty-two percent of Republican voters said they, like Obama, believe tax cuts should expire for people with incomes of more than $250,000, including 16 percent who think they should expire for all earners. Meanwhile, 46 percent of respondents said the Supreme Court's health care decision was a "good thing," while 41 percent said it was a bad thing. That suggests a growing acceptance that this is the law of the land.
Clarification: This post has been edited to better reflect that Obama trails Romney by 1 percent.