Romney Losing His Edge On The Economy?

Several recent polls suggest that Mitt Romney is losing the advantage he had over the President on economic issues.

Even though he’s never really been able to overtake President Obama in the polls, the one thing that Mitt Romney has had going for him since the General Election race began was the fact that he consistently out-polled the President when it came to the question of who voters trusted more to fix the economy. If nothing else, it was a perfect display of the one area in which the President has been vulnerable, and it provided some hope to Romney supporters as to a possible path to victory. Hit the President on the economy, the theory goes, and the voters will come around. Given the generally negative economic news, it was indeed good news for the Romney camp to cling to, although many people kept pointing out that Romney continued to trail the President in the polls even though we’ve been getting month after month of bad jobs reports.

Now, though, it looks like Mitt Romney may be losing his advantage on economic issues:

President Obama has taken away Mitt Romney’s longstanding advantage as the candidate voters say is most likely to restore the economy and create jobs, according to the latest poll by The New York Times and CBS News, which found a modest sense of optimism among Americans that White House policies are working.

But while the climate for Mr. Obama has improved since midsummer, and Mr. Romney has failed to shift sentiment decisively in his favor, the poll found that the presidential race is narrowly divided. The outcome could still turn on unexpected events and how the candidates are perceived after their three debates next month.

With their conventions behind them and the general election campaign fully engaged, the Democratic Party is viewed more favorably than the Republican Party. The poll also found that more likely voters give an edge to Mr. Obama on foreign policy, Medicare and addressing the challenges of the middle class. The only major issue on which Mr. Romney held an advantage was handling the federal budget deficit.

The nationwide poll was conducted during a turbulent week in the campaign, with a new torrent of television ads from Mr. Romney, a disappointing jobs report for Mr. Obama and both candidates reacting to deadly violence in Egypt, Libya and across the Arab world.

Among those considered most likely to vote, the president was the choice of 49 percent to 46 percent for Mr. Romney, including those who said they were leaning in one direction or another. It is within the survey’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for each candidate.

The president holds a 10-point advantage on who would do a better job handling foreign policy, with 4 in 10 voters very confident of Mr. Obama’s ability to handle an international crisis, compared with about one-quarter who say the same about Mr. Romney. The survey was largely conducted before foreign affairs took on heightened importance when the United States ambassador to Libya and three other Americans there were killed on Tuesday.

While the poll reflects a prevailing sentiment among Mr. Romney’s advisers that he must find a way to change the dynamics of the race, the findings also highlight a lingering discontent running through the electorate. A slim majority of likely voters still disapprove of how Mr. Obama has handled the economy and 7 in 10 rank the economy as fairly bad or very bad.

But with only two weeks before the first wave of early voting begins in some states, the presidential race has taken on a new sense of urgency, the poll found, with enthusiasm increasing among voters. A plea for patience, which Mr. Obama delivered at the Democratic convention, appears to be resonating with some voters.

“I believe the country is going in the right direction, little by little,” Anita Young, 42, an independent voter from Ardmore, Pa., said in a follow-up interview. “Are things moving fast enough? No, of course not, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

As Greg Sargent pointed out before this CBS/NYT poll was released, this is isn’t the only recent poll that appears to be showing a decided shift in opinion on the Presidential candidates and the economy:

Well, we now have four national polls that show Obama and Romneytied on the question — perhaps suggesting a potentially signfiicant shift in the race’s dynamics:

* The new Fox News poll shows Obama and Romney exactly tied at 46-46 on who would better improve the economy and create jobs.

* This week’s CNN poll finds Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, 50-49, on who would better handle the economy.

* This week’s Post poll finds Obama and Romney in a statistical tie, 47-45, on the same question.

* A Rasmussen poll on Tuesday found Obama and Romney at 47-45 on who is more trusted on job creation.

If the above polling is right, Romney may no longer be enjoying the built in advantage he seemed to have for months. That advantage was that more voters seemed willing to grant him the presumption of economic superiority because of his business background and because he represents an alternative to the chief executive they are disillusioned with due to the sluggishness of the recovery. Now, after both conventions, the two are tied in national polling on who can be more trusted to get the economy back on track.

So, now we have five polls that appear to be showing a deterioration of what had once been a decided advantage for Mitt Romney on the economy. What’s ironic is that this is happening while polls continue to show that more than 50% of Americans disapprove of way the President his handling the economy. To some extent, this change in the polls on a single issue is simple a reflection of the fact that the President has, at least for the moment, broken away from the “Static State Election” model that we’ve seen for most of the summer. Thanks in part to a Democratic Convention that was, by all accounts, more successful than its Republican alternative and the fact that the Romney campaign chose not to use their convention to highlight specific details of what their candidate would do differently than the President, the President has moved into a lead that is nearly outside the margin of error. As of today, which takes into account this morning’s release of the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll that shows Romney leading by 2 points (a drop from yesterday’s lead of three points), the President currently has a lead in the RCP average of +3.1, but you can really see how the numbers have changed in the chart:

There’s been a definite break away in favor of the President over the past two weeks or so, a clear sign that he’s benefited from the convention coverage. So it’s not entirely surprising that he’d be closing the gap on the “who would handle the economy better?” question as well. If this trend keeps up, then the President is likely to go into the debates with a 3-5 point lead in the polls, at which point Romney will have three chances to make his case. It’s also worth noting that, in many states, early voting will start shortly after the first debate on October 3rd so, whatever impression the candidates make at that debate could become decisive in states like Ohio.

All of this poses a problem for Romney, though. If he’s losing his advantage on the economy, it’s going to be that much harder for him to convince voters to fire the incumbent President. Not impossible, but certainly far more difficult. It will be interesting to see what the next several weeks of economic reports tells us and what impact they have on the polls, for example. So far, several months of bad jobs reports and disappointing GDP growth reports have barely moved the needle in the Presidential race, but at least Romney supporters could point to the fact that they reinforced their candidate’s strong numbers on the economy. Now, though, that advantage seems to be slipping away and, with it, the best argument that Mitt Romney has against President Obama, that he has utterly failed to create the conditions for real economic growth that are necessary to fix the economy.

In a post today, Greg Sargent speculates that the use of Bill Clinton as a surrogate has helped the President on the economy:

The use of Clinton in the new ad is also interesting: As noted here recently, the Obama campaign believes that true undecided voters see Clinton as a kind of “referee” figure on the economy — hence the ad’s back-to-back footage of Clinton and Obama both making the case that electing a Republican president would take us back to the policies that got us into trouble in the first place. Clinton will play a major role in trying to get swing voters to feel that things are indeed recovering.

If the poll numbers are indication, then that may be exactly what’s happening. If it continues, then Mitt Romney’s path to victory may end up having a “Road Closed” sign on it.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Economics and Business, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. I think it’s important to represent the Romney economic position as a catch-22:

    He needs to introduce a detailed plan, and that’s precisely what he cannot do.

  2. This is the kind of headline dragging him down:

    Romney: My Magic Tax Plan Will Repeal Laws of Arithmetic

  3. jukeboxgrad says:

    That article describes an important issue that is being overshadowed by other events: Mitt and Feldstein are conducting a deception regarding tax policy, and it has to do with a slippery definition of ‘middle class.’

  4. Jib says:

    The pitch has to go like this: “My opponent has failed to do a good job AND here is how I will do better” Romney did the first part and people listened. But with the 2nd part he just gave us “W” economics, lower taxes, less regulation, increased spending, and more war. That is not going to
    work.

    Repubs are completely blind to how much damage W did to the brand. Reaganomics is over, if you want to get back in the WH, you need to offer something new.

    Repubs try to paint Obama as Carter when the most import thing for Romney to do is make sure every one knows he is not W. But that would take some one with a vision and the skills to communicate it. The problem is not that Obama is Carter, it is that Romney is NOT Reagan.

  5. @jukeboxgrad:

    Someone suggested that Mitt’s plan to cut marginal rates and make it up later was not an invention of his economic team, but instead was something the political guys put together.

    That kind of makes sense to me. It isn’t that it is a complete plan with a hidden purpose, it instead is a Potemkin village of a plan. It looks like a plan from afar.

    I think some right commentators had the cynical view that voters would never figure that out, that they’d just see the bad harvest and throw the chief in the volcano. Maybe they sold voters short. Maybe the reception for Bill Clinton’s speech says that voters really did want a little more economics in their politics.

  6. stonetools says:

    Doug has been pushing for some time that idea that all Romney needs to do is to is to ignore social issues, emphasize how bad the economy is, and reveal his economic plan. Well, Romney did that at his convention, and guess what, that dog won’t hunt no longer.

    Romney’s ecoinomic plan is the same one since Reagan, with a new coat of paint:

    1.Big tax cuts for the wealthy
    2.Big increases in defense spending
    3. Deregulation of industry.

    Guess what, it doesn’t work and the public knows it won’t work

    1. Those tax cuts don’t finance themselves and don’t create jobs ( See Reagan I; Bush I and II)
    2. The public thinks defense spending needs to be cut, not increased, according to most polls.
    3. As to deregulation always to leads to greater efficiency, see 2008 crisis.

    The public having just lived through the Bush years, knows that Reagan/Bushism doesn’t work-and Romney is offering nothing but an upgrade of that.

    Now, though, that advantage seems to be slipping away and, with it, the best argument that Mitt Romney has against President Obama, that he has utterly failed to create the conditions for real economic growth that are necessary to fix the economy.

    That argument fails because the public is aware that the Republicans did everything they could to Obama’s attempts to fix the economy. You can’t say someone has utterly failed to do something if you prevented him from doing it.
    Obama did pass the stimulus and financial regulation, and was prevented by Republicans from passing a jobs bill. Furthermore, the public saw a Republican Congress go two years without doing a single thing to revive the economy . The main thing the Republican Congress did was to downgrade the USA’s credit rating with its debt ceiling shenanigans, and fail to repeal Obamacare 33 times. And a member of the worst House ever is on the ticket.

  7. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    He needs to introduce a detailed plan, and that’s precisely what he cannot do.

    An unrealistic detailed plan is still an unrealistic plan. That’s why a detailed Romney plan isn’t going to help.

  8. @stonetools:

    As I say in my comments, I don’t think there is a detailed Romney plan, and if he tried to make one up now he’d have to break some of his previous promises.

    The bits and pieces he’s announced cannot connect. You can’t put them all on one page and call them a detailed plan.

  9. stonetools says:

    Also too, the Obama campaign’s decision to put Bill Clinton front and center in the convention was genius. What was the last good economic time people remember? Bill Clinton’s second term. For many people, Bill Clinton is an authority on making a good economy in a way no budget wonk or businessman can ever be -and that authority wholeheartedly endorsed, and is campaigning for Obama.

  10. jukeboxgrad says:

    john:

    some right commentators had the cynical view that voters would never figure that out, that they’d just see the bad harvest and throw the chief in the volcano.

    There are a lot of voters who are exactly that stupid, but I guess not quite enough to put Mitt over the top.

    Maybe the reception for Bill Clinton’s speech says that voters really did want a little more economics in their politics.

    The success of that speech tells us that voters want to be respected. Various analysts pointed out that part of Bill’s genius is to not talk down. He doesn’t treat you like you’re an idiot. He treats you like you are someone who can understand economics, and then he helps you by making the economics easy enough to understand. This creates a feeling of mutual respect and trust.

    In contrast, Mitt can’t hide his inner belief that he is better and smarter than you. Then when his pitch is all platitudes and no details, this just adds to the feeling that he doesn’t respect your ability to understand details, and it makes him seem even more remote and untrustworthy.

    He doesn’t respect his audience. He also reveals this when he makes a statement like this:

    In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy. And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort, and lie about.

    English translation: ‘in my eyes, voters aren’t intelligent and discriminating. They cannot be trusted to think for themselves and separate fact from fiction. They are easy to fool. It will be easy for Obama to fool them.’

    He has made a number of statements like this, which indicate his underlying belief that voters are stupid and easy to fool. People pick up this message, even unconsciously. They understand that someone with this belief is likely, himself, to be trying to fool them.

    I think this is a big part of what’s going on when voters tell pollsters that they don’t ‘like’ Mitt.

  11. @jukeboxgrad:

    English translation: ‘in my eyes, voters aren’t intelligent and discriminating. They cannot be trusted to think for themselves and separate fact from fiction. They are easy to fool. It will be easy for Obama to fool them.’

    Good point.

  12. cd6 says:

    I was drunk last night and I ended up on Mitt’s facebook page somehow. He had a link that said “compare how your community will fare under Mitt’s plan vs Obama’s plan” and I thought to myself, holy shit? A plan? ok!

    The link whisked me off to a page where I entered my state. Apparently, my “community” includes the entire state of Washington. And I hit go for this awesome comparison.

    The result was a two column page. The left: Mitt’s Plan!!!! The right: Obama’s results. The Obama’s results page was not a view of how we will fare under Obama in the future, but rather, what’s happened since 2008. 200,000 more people out of jobs in Washington, etc. A 10% increase in unemployment rate, which is clearly designed to make it look like a 10% unemployment rate and not a change in unemployement rate from 7.8 to 8.5 or whatever it is that’s hit Washington (which I gather has done relatively well compared to some other states). Just total dishonest bullshit.

    But the best part was the “Mitt’s Plan” side. I mean, I’m ready to find out what his plan is! Bring it on. Mitt’s plan will add 12 million jobs by 2016. Yes, thats the number of job the economy is expected to add regardless of who’s president. But more specifcally, this website said my community of Washington would add 200,000 jobs. I have no idea where that breakdown came from. I’m willing to bet its the ratio of 12 million to the population of Washington.

    How will this happen? Through 5 reasons! “Energy independance!” “Smarter kids!” or some bullshit. I don’t remember the only three. That was it. Each of the 5 bullets was 2-3 words. None of them had any explanations on how exactly they would help in Washington.

    It was insultingly retarded, and I was drunk and thus more likely to be impressed. I mean, who falls for this shit? How depressing is that? Jesus.

  13. Jr says:

    People don’t like BS.

    Romney has never told people what he would to jumpstart the economy. He is the definition of an empty suit, he runs around the country talking about how much it sucks……but never gives details about his plan for it.

    When you offer nothing, people aren’t going to waste their time.

  14. stonetools says:

    More bad news for Romney:

    First, Romney’s focus on the “Are you better off than four years ago?” question appears to be a wash, at best. Voters are evenly split on whether they’re better off under Obama’s tenure. Moreover, most voters say they are better off than one year ago.

    And then there’s this question from Fox: “Do you think Mitt Romney has a clear plan for improving the economy, or not?”

    Just 42 percent said yes. And 49 percent said no.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/romney-economic-plan-policy-taxes-economy-obama-2012-9#ixzz26YTa5KS0

    Remember Doug’s continuing mystification as to why Romney doesn’t focus on his economic plan to the exclusion of all else? Well, there’s your answer, Doug-should you choose to accept it. The voters don’t believe he has a plan.

  15. Mr. Prosser says:

    @stonetools:”You can’t say someone has utterly failed to do something if you prevented him from doing it .” Absolutely. And, hidden in the Feldstein paper on Romney’s proposals on closing loopholes is the elimination of the mortgage deduction and the charitable deduction. If the Dems can put those out there, RR is definitely down the tubes.

  16. Jr says:

    @Mr. Prosser: I expect Obama to nail him on that during the debate. Mitt tried to weasel his way out of that question during Meet the Press, but you can beat your ass that it will be asked during the debates, and for his sake he better be more precise.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    He offers no plan because he has no plan. None on the economy and none on foreign policy.

    His only plan is to get elected. He wants to be president. He doesn’t want to do anything beyond sort of generally looking out for people like himself.

    The more you look at Mitt Romney the less you like. I’ve gone from seeing him as someone I’d never vote for but would trust with the job, to utterly despising him as a nullity, an utterly dishonest, slimy, echoing nothingness of a man.

    I think voters are following that same arc, just a month or two back.

  18. jukeboxgrad says:

    hidden in the Feldstein paper

    Yup. That’s why Mitt says he hasn’t read it. But of course he’s still happy to cite it. He wants to use the paper while also keeping his distance from it. What a snake.

  19. @Mr. Prosser:

    That’s his catch-22 in a nutshell. His “budget” doesn’t work without an elimination of the mortgage deduction, but he won’t say it out loud.

    Maybe a Clintonesque speech describing a 10 (or heck 20) year fade-out of the deduction would work, but he isn’t ready to do that.

  20. @michael reynolds:

    “Everything I need to know about the world I learned in private equity?”

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    That’s his catch-22 in a nutshell. His “budget” doesn’t work without an elimination of the mortgage deduction, but he won’t say it out loud.

    Maybe a Clintonesque speech describing a 10 (or heck 20) year fade-out of the deduction would work, but he isn’t ready to do that.

    Exactly right, dead on.

  22. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds:The more you look at Mitt Romney the less you like. I’ve gone from seeing him as someone I’d never vote for but would trust with the job, to utterly despising him as a nullity, an utterly dishonest, slimy, echoing nothingness of a man.

    Agreed.

    I don’t think I have ever loathed a politician as much as I do Mitt Romney.

  23. stonetools says:

    The public aren’t with Romney on the economy.
    They (at least the independents) aren’t with him on social issues.
    And they aren’t with him on foreign policy.
    What’s left?
    It is a puzzlement!

    Any possibility of an “October surprise”?

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    What’s left? Obama hatred. White racial identity. The panic of older whites seeing a changing world. The toady brigade of working class people who think worshipping the rich will make them rich. THe gay-bashers. The anti-choice. The neocons desperate to start still another war. Mormons. Apocalyptic Christians. And of course the handful of James Joyners still clinging to a fantasy of a party that’s long dead and never coming back.

  25. @michael reynolds:

    Conflicted RINOs who somehow think that electing the crazy is the way to “change the crazy from within.”

  26. gVOR08 says:

    A few months ago I made the mistake of downloading “Believe in America”, Romney’s elebentyseben point economic plan, and reading it, so that you don’t have to. There’s a few hours I’ll never get back. And I confess I skimmed the last half pretty quickly. Just a miscellaneous grab bag of benefits to business and the wealthy pasted together with the thinnest possible rationalizations.

    This was back when I still thought Romney was an intelligent, moderate Republican. About midway through the primaries I was till rooting for Romney on the grounds he was the lowest risk Republican running. I had some hope at one point in the book. One of his advisers went off on a short history of the decline of unions, and seemed to have some concern that the middle class was losing a voice. Oh good, maybe I’ll see something positive and original. Then it launched into a bullet point list of proposals to further weaken unions.

  27. BigEd says:

    In the one ‘poll’ that really has any substance – Intrade- Obama now stands at 67%; that is up from 57% in the past 3 weeks.

    It is over for Romney; and I am a Republican who thinks Obama has no grasp of macroeconomics.

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    The bits and pieces he’s announced cannot connect. You can’t put them all on one page and call them a detailed plan.

    Oh, I don’t know John. I think you can…. But the hysterical laughter will drown out anything more one might say about it.

  29. Facebones says:

    Pundits who knew Romney as governor have been saying this for a while:

    The more you get to know him, the more you cannot stand him.

    It happened in MA, when he didn’t run for a second term because he knew he wouldn’t win. It’s bearing out in the polls today.

  30. stonetools says:

    The latest CNN poll asks:

    Do you think the policies of Barack Obama and the Democrats or George W. Bush and the
    Republicans are more responsible for the country’s current economic problems?
    Obama

    54 percent of likely voters blame Bush and the Republicans. That’s why just harping on the bad economy isn’t working.
    The voters have also decided that Romney can’t fix what the Republicans screwed up by giving us more Bush. That’s also clear.

  31. LC says:

    @stonetools:

    Guess what, it doesn’t work and the public knows it won’t work

    The public having just lived through the Bush years, knows that Reagan/Bushism doesn’t work-and Romney is offering nothing but an upgrade of that.

    Unfortunately, I fear you are being far too optimistic. We remain a country split pretty much 49-49. And, remember, this same American public turned the House back over to the same idiots who had been responsible for a financial debacle only two years old. The American voter’s memory is, I suspect, about 3 months long.

    Assume that ¼ of Romney’s support comes from birthers (i.e., racists). Assume 1% comes from the “Romneys”, the “elite” Conservatives, who think 7, 8,9, and 10 figure incomes are insufficient, who resent every penny they pay in taxes because they earned it (as opposed to the rest of us freeloaders). That still leaves about ¼ of the population who apparently believe that they can get all the government services they demand (bridges, highways, defense, prisons, unemployment insurance, medicare, social security, disaster relief, medical research, safe food, etc.) without paying for it, people who have bought into the Republican lie that if one simply gets rid of waste, fraud and abuse (i.e., welfare), the government could be run on a shoestring.

    Every year politicians on both sides makes promises they can’t keep. I can understand why new voters, people voting for just the first or second or even the third time believe them. But I don’t understand how people over the age of 30, who have heard the same messages every two years, still fall for the same lies and deceptions and don’t demand the truth, the facts.

    And, while we all obsess about the Presidential race, we are ignoring the other two races, for the House and, especially, the Senate because if the Senate goes Republican, Obama will be worse than a lame duck from day 1. And, even with the Senate in Democratic hands, a Republican House will continue to block everything passed in Obama’s first two years by means of its budget power.

  32. JohnMcC says:

    Just an observation that the headlines featuring Mr Romney have not had a peep of economic campaigning for at least 2 weeks, maybe more. We’ve heard about Mr Eastwood and fetal citizenship and Cairo-mob-sympathizing. No one but us junkies watchs Meet The Press or cares who George Stephopolis interviews. So the net effect for the average fairly-well-informed voters was — no economic campaign.

  33. Fiona says:

    @Jr:

    I don’t think I have ever loathed a politician as much as I do Mitt Romney.

    The only one I can think of is Sarah Palin. She’s mean girl nasty but not all that bright. I don’t doubt Romney is intelligent, which makes his mendacity that much more troubling. There’s something soulless and evil about the guy and his desperation to win at any cost makes him increasingly scary as the endless campaign wears on.

  34. Groupthink says:

    @michael reynolds: he has more of a plan than Obama’s Bernake pump money into the economy to artificially pump it up

  35. Groupthink says:

    Romney’s plan is 100% better than this garbage

  36. DGarr says:

    Mr. Romney’s campaign now has a feeling of desperation.
    This perception drives him to say more and more desperate things.
    It is like an airplane going into a tailspin.
    Very hard to pull out of such a downward spiral.

  37. Jr says:

    @Groupthink: Yeah, tax cuts for the rich and more deregulation sounds like a great plan to me.

    Mitt and the rest of the GOP are bankrupt in terms of idea.