There are two main trends right now helping to improve President Obama’s re-election prospects. One is that signs of a mildly improving economy helped boost Obama’s job approval numbers. Much like the recent economic indicators, Obama’s job numbers aren’t subjectively all that good, but they have significantly improved since last September.
The other big trend improving Obama’s chances at winning a second term is the huge drop in Mitt Romney’s favorable rating with the general public. During the course of this GOP presidential primary, Romney’s favorability is tanking with regular voters. Most polls now show his net favorable rating in deeply negative territory. According to Quinnipiac, since November Romney’s net favorability rating went from a +5 to a -8. From Quinnipiac:
TREND: Is your opinion of Mitt Romney favorable, unfavorable or haven’t you heard enough about him?
FAVORABLE..... High Low Feb 22 Nov 22 Nov 02 Oct 05 Aug 31 Oct 05 May 03 2012 2011 2011 2011 2011 2011 2007 Favorable 35 36 35 39 36 39 17 Unfavorable 43 31 35 28 27 28 16 Hvn't hrd enough 19 31 27 31 35 31 65 REFUSED 3 3 2 2 2 2 2
Similarly, Purple Strategies’ PurplePoll (PDF) of swing states has found Romney’s unfavorable numbers growing rapidly these past few months.
The campaign’s impact on Mitt Romney’s personal popularity has been palpable: today, just 27% have a favorable view of him, while 57% have an unfavorable view. In the first PurplePoll in September of last year, 32% had a favorable view (39% unfavorable). In other words, over the course of the campaign, Romney’s favorables in Purple states have declined by 5 points, while his unfavorables have increased by 18 points – a net decline of 23 points.
Whether this drop in Romney’s favorability is the result of him needing to tack hard right to try to win the Republican nomination, or simply due to the fact that the more people learn about Romney the less they like him is hard to tell. Either way this should be a very concerning development for his campaign, and the GOP as a whole. Once people form a negative opinion about something, it is hard to get them to change their minds.
While it is true that president elections tend to mostly be referendums on the incumbent and the state of the economy, the quality of the main opposition candidate does matter. It’s easy to see how some people who don’t believe Obama deserves another term will simply not vote, or will vote for a third party, if they also hold a very poor opinion of the main alternative.