In the last 10 days, team Obama has gone on the offensive, using a two-pronged issue strategy: one economic, and one social, that for about 48 hours put the Romney campaign on its heels. When a campaign moves this aggressively they are usually looking at polling that we don't see, and that polling most assuredly showed a deteriorating electoral outlook. More problematic for the president's campaign, the data [probably also] shows a rehabilitated Romney that has solidified his position with Republicans and begun to capture a large portion of Independents. It is not panic time, but for the Obama campaign, the time to paint Romney is now.
This morning, a couple of public polls give us some insight into what team Obama is seeing. The first, a new USA Today/Gallup poll released today showed that 71 percent of adults rate economic conditions in the country as poor. Additionally, 55 percent said that the economy would get better next year if Romney was elected President, while only 46 percent said the same if Obama is reelected. Importantly, Romney's favorable/unfavorable is 50 percent to 41 percent. This is a dramatic improvement from two months ago when his unfavorable rating was well above 50 percent.
Also, a new CBS/NYT re-contact poll conducted over the weekend showed that 67 percent believe the president's announcement in support of gay marriage was done for political reasons, while only 24 percent said that he did it because he thought it was right. That means that even a majority of those that support gay marriage think the president did it for electoral reasons. Even more of an issue is the fact that 16 percent said that the president's support of gay marriage made them more likely to vote for him in November while 26 percent said less likely. Most (57 percent) said the issue would have no effect on their vote.
Although this survey has a small sample size and is only among adults, rather than frequent voters, the takeaway suggests that the issue is less of a vote generator for the president than the average person would guess from watching the media reaction the last four days.
Here is our up to the minute take on the status of the campaign:
- The Obama campaign has decided to try to cut the legs right out from under Romney by going after his two supposed strengths: as someone who can create jobs and as a political moderate. If executed correctly, it may turn out to be a smart strategy. To go after Romney on jobs, Bain is back and in a big way. A new two-minute Obama campaign TV ad that hits Romney for killing jobs while at Bain is airing in key swing states such as Ohio, Iowa and Virginia. My guess is that team Obama had polling that reflected a USA Today/Gallup poll last week which showed that Romney was beating the president on handling the economy and decided to go straight at the issue. The question is whether Romney can articulate his faith in free enterprise as a counterpoint to the president's populist message.
On the second front, whether it was coordinated or not, last week's gay marriage announcement and the corresponding media examination of a potential Romney high school bullying issue was an attempt to push the GOP candidate to the right at the exact time when he most wanted to tack to the middle. The problem for the Obama campaign is that there needs to be a track record of Romney intolerance on this issue and my sense is that it doesn't exist, and that the message will be hard to sustain if there is not.
While much of the above suggests things have swung toward Romney the last 30-60 days, he is still the underdog because of the electoral college map. The map is Obama's friend. Analyses may vary on this, but we project that the president probably starts with approximately 215 to 230 secure electoral votes. Next week we will roll out our map and start to examine polling in the key swing states.
Thanks to John Zirzinsky and Allison Quigley for their insights and contributions to this election monitor. Follow us on Twitter: @Steve_Lombardo.
Please note that the author was an advisor to the Romney for President campaign in 2008 but is not affiliated with any campaign in 2012.