CNN is out with a new poll showing President Obama leading Mitt Romney 52% to 43%. While I don’t put much stock in horse race results this far out from the election, the poll does contain a pair of questions that I feel neatly summarize what will likely be one of the inherent dynamics of this election. The poll found the election will primarily be a referendum on Obama. From CNN/ORC:
3. (Asked of Obama voters) Is that more a vote FOR Barack Obama or more a vote AGAINST Mitt Romney?
Vote for Obama 76%
Vote against Romney 23%
No Opinion 1%
4. (Asked of Romney voters) Is that more a vote FOR Mitt Romney or more a vote AGAINST Barack Obama?
Vote for Romney 35%
Vote against Obama 63%
No Opinion 3%
By historic standards this is an extremely low percentage of people who say they are planning to vote for the challenger and not simply against the incumbent. This could be the result of Romney’s history of low favorability ratings, the high level of vitriol the GOP base has directed at Obama while he has been in office or a combination of the two.
Either way I suspect the Republican party will spend most of its efforts on a message of why Obama doesn’t deserve another term instead of trying to make voters actually like Romney. With an unpopular nominee but four years of high unemployment under the incumbent, that likely seems the best strategy.