Still wondering if this year’s presidential election will be close?
Well, how about a look at the latest Gallup polling numbers over the
last several days.
Since the beginning of June, the key numbers in the Gallup Daily
Tracking poll are 46 and 45 percent. In that time period, President
Obama scored 46 percent support on six days, to 45 percent for Mitt
Romney, his expected Republican challenger. Romney has hit 46 percent
seven times, and each time the president came up short with 45 percent.
In other words, even though we are months from the election, this race
is looking really close and any number of factors could make a
difference in November.
With all that said a new Bloomberg poll is getting some attention.
Bloomberg gives the president a huge 53 to 40 percent lead over Romney,
one of the largest gaps seen in recent national polls. The question will
now be debated whether the Bloomberg survey is an aberration in the
ongoing series of polls or whether it hints at some sort of major shift
in the race. Too early to know but stay tuned.
The Economy Will be Key
Obviously, the biggest factor remains the economy. It is the president’s
weakest selling point, but also the area where even a little improvement
in the months to come could pay huge political dividends. The economy
has been in a down cycle of late, with the unemployment rate creeping
back up to 8.2 percent and a decline in public optimism about where the
country is headed. The more the economy remains weak, the more you can
expect the Obama campaign to try and make Mitt Romney the issue instead.
One TV ad getting a lot of play is an attack on Romney’s economic record
as governor of Massachusetts that highlights the fact the state was 47th
out of 50 states in job creation during part of Romney’s tenure.
But the experts I’ve talked to of late say that tactic will only go so
far. The Romney campaign wants the vote in November to be purely a
referendum on Mr. Obama’s economic record, not a choice election as the
Obama campaign would prefer. The Romney camp believes they can replicate
Ronald Reagan’s 1980 focus on incumbent Jimmy Carter, with the same
devastating (for Mr. Carter), bottom-line question for voters: Are you
better off today than you were four years ago?
Independent Voters Are Pessimistic
Romney also seems to have opportunities to make inroads with independent
voters, many of whom supported the president four years ago. Charlie
Cook of the Cook Political Report was parsing some recent polling data
from one survey on independent voters the other day and it was stunning
how few believe the country is headed in the right direction (15
percent) and how many believe it is headed in the wrong direction (81
percent). OK, granted, it’s just one poll. But yikes, if you’re in the
White House reading that.
It’s clear the president has a lot of work to do to convince swing
voters who remain undecided that he should be given another four years
in the White House. That’s why there is a huge push going on among core
Obama voters to make sure they get out and vote this year. Turnout among
African-American voters, young people and Hispanic-Americans was a major
reason why Mr. Obama piled up a huge victory in 2008. But getting those
same voters out again, especially young people and Hispanics, will be a
major test for the campaign.
For example, Mitt Romney is doing well with older white voters but faces
a huge deficit with the president in terms of Hispanic support. Down the
line, the growth of the Hispanic community should help Democrats and
could penalize Republicans, particularly if they continue to insist on
strict immigration enforcement along with the tough kind of rhetoric
that tends to turn off Hispanics around the country.
But unless the Obama camp can light a fire under Hispanic community
activists, Romney could benefit from an upsurge in older white voters
who are lining up against the president and seem determined to get out
to the polls. Older voters are much more reliable in getting to the
polls than younger voters anyway.
The Swing States
take a look at Mitt Romney’s recent campaign bus tour. It began in New
Hampshire and hit five other so-called “swing states” that should be
pivotal in this year’s election. They include Pennsylvania, Wisconsin,
Iowa, Ohio and Michigan. President Obama won all six of these states
four years ago, most by healthy margins over Republican John McCain. But
the Romney campaign is convinced most of these states are in play this
year and victories in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan in November would go
a long ways to making Romney the next president. Expect both candidates
to focus on these states in the months ahead plus a handful of others
including Florida, Colorado and Virginia.
The next big event to watch for will be Romney’s selection of a vice
presidential running mate. Romney knocked down an ABC News report this
week that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is not being vetted as part of his
short list of vice presidential possibilities, insisting Rubio is under
consideration. But I still believe the Romney camp will choose someone
more experienced who will first and foremost be seen by voters and the
media as ready to be president right away, a direct contrast with
McCain’s much-panned selection of Sarah Palin in 2008. With that factor
in mind, the favorites at the moment appear to be former Minnesota
governor Tim Pawlenty, who is working hard for Romney’s campaign, and
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who served as budget director and trade
representative under President George W. Bush.