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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bain Attacks Erode Mitt's Favorables

Mitt Romney
Yesterday, I touched briefly on two contradictory polls on the issue of Team Obama's Bain attacks and whether they were hurting Mitt Romney. A USA Today/Gallup poll found that "By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, those surveyed say Romney's background in business, including his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, would cause him to make good decisions, not bad ones, in dealing with the nation's economic problems over the next four years." So, despite the Obama attacks on his Bain record, Gallup found most thought Romney's Bain years were a positive.

But a Reuters/Ipsos poll released the very next day found that over a third of respondents said "that what they had heard about Romney's taxes and his time at Bain Capital private equity firm had given them a less favorable impression of the Republican candidate."

My take on all of this was that it was Reuters' finding that was probably truest, since Team Obama wasn't changing their strategy. Based on their behavior, I deduced that their own tracking was showing it working. And today Greg Sargent points to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll [pdf] that suggests the same thing. It finds that Obama leads Romney 49%-43%, that Romney's favorables are underwater at 35% favorable to 40% unfavorable, that 52% say they don’t identify with Romney’s "background and set of values," and "43 percent say they’ve seen, heard, or read something in the past few weeks that gives them a more negative impression of Romney."


Meanwhile, the same poll finds that only 23% of respondents have a negative view of Bain. To explain this, Sargent turns to Steve Kornacki, who explained that it's "possible that Bain will mean nothing to most voters and still end up succeeding as a strategy."

"What Kornacki means is that the broader Obama strategy of attacking Romney over the offshoring and layoffs -- combined with the attacks on Romney’s own offshore accounts and refusal to release his tax returns -- could end up eroding Romney’s image, even if voters don’t necessarily reach a firm conclusion about the meaning of the Bain years," Sargent writes. "This is certainly how Dem strategists view the purpose of the Bain attacks."

It may be that it's not the attacks themselves that sink Romney, but his reaction to them. He's been dodgy and secretive about everything, constantly trying to change the subject and constantly being caught in a lie. As a result, voters may be getting the (absolutely correct) impression of Romney as a shady and slippery character. And talk about Swiss Bank accounts and exotic tax dodges sets Romney apart from the average voter. That 52% who don't identify with Romney's "background and set of values?" Where do you think that impression comes from?

And Sargent notes that, while Romney seems to benefit from the "presumption of economic competence," more identify Obama as the guy on their side economically.

The NBC/WSJ poll also finds that Romney holds the edge on who has good ideas for improving the economy, 43-36. But 80 percent say they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who will fight for fairness and encourage investments to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class, versus 68 percent who lean towards restoring “economic freedom” and “small government.” And Obama leads on who would fight for the middle class, 49-33.

So a better question than "Are the Bain attacks working?" might be "Are voters seeing Romney as representing someone other than themselves?"

And the answer to that question seems to be yes.


[image source]

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