Obama, Romney Look to Define Campaign on Their Terms


President Obama returns to the White House Wednesday night after campaigning in Texas. Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Can President Obama’s re-election team define Mitt Romney before the economy defines the Democrat’s presidency?

That has become the race within the race of the 2012 campaign as three consecutive months of discouraging employment reports have taken their toll on the president’s standing among the American people.

The latest New York Times-CBS News poll released Wednesday found a downward shift in public opinion about the president’s handling of the economy, with 39 percent saying they approved and 55 percent responding they disapproved. In April’s Times-CBS survey the president had a 44 percent approval mark on the economy compared to 48 percent disapproval.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said Mr. Obama’s policies contributed a lot or some to the economic downturn, although 81 percent said the same for former President George W. Bush.

The Times-CBS poll was in the field as the president’s campaign hammered away at Romney’s refusal to release additional years of his tax returns and his connections to the private equity firm Bain Capital.

Six in 10 respondents told pollsters that Romney’s experience as the head of Bain would have no effect on their vote. Fourteen percent said it would make them more likely to vote for him while 23 percent said it makes them less likely to cast their ballot for Romney.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed also said that Romney’s personal wealth, estimated at upwards of $250 million, would have no effect on their vote.

Still, there remains a perception that the policies Romney would pursue if elected would benefit the wealthy over middle class and poor Americans.

A majority of respondents — 53 percent — said the policies of a Romney administration would favor the rich while 11 percent said they would favor the middle class and two percent said they would favor the poor. Thirty percent responded that the GOP candidate’s proposals would treat all groups equally.

The poll also shows the two candidates in a dead heat nationally, with Romney at 47 percent to 46 for the president. That is within the poll’s sampling error of plus-or-minus three percentage points. The president and Romney were tied at 46 percent each in April.

But the winner of November’s election will likely be decided by a few key states that are receiving the bulk of the attention from the two campaigns.

One of the most highly sought-after battlegrounds is Virginia, where the president and Romney are deadlocked at 44 percent apiece according to a new survey by Quinnipiac University. Last month the president held a 47 to 42 percent lead in that poll.

Half of Virginia voters say the president does not deserve to be re-elected and Romney holds a narrow three-point advantage, 47 to 44 percent, when it comes to which candidate would do a better job on the economy.

There is strong support among Virginians, however, for the president’s proposal to raise income tax rates on households earning more than $250,000 per year, with 59 percent backing the policy compared to 36 percent opposed.

Game out scenarios with the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center. You can share your Electoral College map with your friends using Twitter and Facebook.

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All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends campaign events in Jacksonville, Fla., at 1:15 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. He then travels to West Palm Beach for two more campaign events at 5:35 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.

  • Vice President Biden delivers remarks at a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, at 2:45 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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