Spare a tear, if you would, for the president’s re-election team.
They must have thought over these past few months that they have done everything right. After all, they launched hysterically untruthful attacks against Mitt Romney that cheered their base and got the national media to talk about issues other than the economy, and Romney–who is not the most gifted campaigner to have ever pressed the flesh–helped the Obamaphiles with some own goals. Sure, fact-checkers called shenanigans (and worse than shenanigans) on the charges leveled by both the president’s campaign and the super PACs assocated with it–no Mitt Romney did not kill a woman with his death stare of cancer, no he didn’t commit a felony by misstating the time when he left Bain, no there isn’t any proof that he has failed to pay his taxes–but if you are busy explaining in politics, you aren’t busy attacking, and Team Obama thought that they had Romney on the defensive. And they thought their cleverness and lack of scruples might translate into an advantage in the polls.
Despite a series of struggles of late — ranging from a less-than-stellar foreign trip to controversy over his vice presidential pick — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has pulled into a dead heat with President Obama in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
And the reason, according to the guts of the poll, is simple: the economy stinks and people don’t think the current occupant of the White House can make it better.
* 56 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing on the economy while just 43 percent approve.
* Nearly six in ten voters (58%) say they are “not confident” that the economy will improve if Obama is elected to a second term. Fifty-two percent of the sample express a lack of confidence in Romney’s ability to get things back on the right economic track.
* Fifty percent say they trust Romney more to handle the economy while 43 percent name Obama.
Numbers like those make clear just how difficult the challenge for Obama to win in this political environment really is. Even as Obama has seemed to win the tactical, day-in-day-out fight of the last few months, the race has moved — albeit it marginally — in Romney’s direction nationally.
What the Post-ABC numbers make crystal clear is that the still struggling economy amounts to a huge political weight around President Obama’s ankles. No matter how much Romney seems to struggle with the blocking and tackling of the campaign, the currents of the electorate continue to keep him close (or even ahead).
The numbers also suggest that this may well be an election where what happens in the campaign plays a decidedly minor role while the broad backdrop on which the race is fought is close to determinative. Put more simply: Obama could win the day-to-day part of the race and still lose on November 6.
The article mentions that the presidential race is essentially a tie in Ohio:
The closest Dispatch Poll in modern history shows the races for president and U.S. Senate in a dead heat in battleground Ohio.
For the record, Republican Mitt Romney holds a “lead” of 0.22 percentage point over President Barack Obama. That’s a mere 2 votes out of more than 1,730 cast for president in the mail poll.
Given that the president had been leading in Ohio, the momentum now clearly appears to be with Romney.
So yes, spare a tear for the president’s re-election campaign. They are doing their level best to win, and yet, things are not going as planned. One is almost led to think that the voters might be issuing a judgment not on the toughness or savvy of particular presidential campaigns and their managers, but rather on the last four years and all of the attendant failures of the administration in charge. Some days, Axelrod and Plouffe must wonder whether there even is any point in getting out of bed to go to work.