Poll: Obama, Romney Deadlocked; Economy Remains Top Concern

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  May 22, 2012 at 9:08 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama boards Air Force One on Monday after hosting the NATO summit in Chicago. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Will President Obama’s re-election fate mirror what happened to Presidents George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush?

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday gives reasons to support both outcomes, depending on which metrics are examined.

The president’s disapproval rating on his handling of the economy, which was ranked as the most important issue by a majority of respondents, stands at 55 percent.

When people were also asked to compare their current financial situation with when Mr. Obama took office, 30 percent responded they were worse off, while 16 percent said they were better off. Fifty-three percent described their status as about the same.

“On this question, Obama’s numbers continue to resemble those of George H.W. Bush, who lost his bid for reelection in 1992 amid a flagging economy,” write Jon Cohen and Dan Balz on the front page.

Still, a majority of respondents said they were optimistic about their personal finances in the next few years (58 percent) or hopeful about the national economy (54 percent).

The president and Mitt Romney were essentially tied on two key metrics: who would do better handling the economy and who would do better creating jobs.

There remains a wide gap, however, between the Democratic incumbent and the presumptive Republican nominee on character issues. Asked which candidate better understands economic problems people are facing, 48 percent named Mr. Obama, while 40 percent picked Romney. The president held a 52 to 39 percent advantage on who has the “better personal character to serve as president.”

The survey also looked at the potential impact of the recent wave of attacks by the Obama campaign on Romney’s experience as a Bain Capital executive. Respondents were split when asked about “Romney’s work buying and restructuring companies” before going into politics, with 21 percent saying it was a major reason to support the Republican and an equal number responding it was a major reason to oppose him. Fifty-four percent said that part of his background was not a major factor in their decision.

If the election were held today, 49 percent of registered voters surveyed said they would vote for the president, while 46 percent would choose Romney. The three-point margin was within the poll’s sampling error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percent.

While the two men are deadlocked, the Post/ABC poll found that 91 percent of Mr. Obama’s supporters said they were enthusiastic about his candidacy, while 73 percent of Romney backers said the same thing. A quarter of Romney supporters responded they were not enthusiastic about him, which compares with feelings toward Sen. John McCain in 2008.

As has been the case for months, the president’s prospects for a second term appear to hinge on the fragile state of the economy, but he is buffered somewhat by people’s opinions of him personally.

MR. OBAMA: CAMPAIGN WILL BE ABOUT BAIN

The president on Monday offered up his first clear explanation of how he sees the campaign, defending his team’s attack on Romney over his role at Bain Capital.

As the media worked itself up over what Newark Democratic Mayor Cory Booker said about negative campaigning, Mr. Obama was at the NATO Summit in Chicago huddling with world leaders worried about the economy.

Hans Nichols of Bloomberg asked the president about the dust-up over Booker’s remarks and to clarify views on Romney’s responsibility for job losses that occurred during his tenure at Bain.

Mr. Obama did not back off, declaring, “This is what this campaign’s going to be about.” The president said Romney is not running on his record as governor of Massachusetts, but instead on what he did in the private sector.

“[H]is main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience,” Mr. Obama said. “And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity…firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”

For his part, Booker appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show to set the record straight.

The mayor said he only went on television because the GOP went too far in saying he was afraid of the president and in mocking him using the #IStandWithCoryBooker hashtag on Twitter.

“[T]hat slogan is what had me and my entire staff fit to be tied,” he said.

“Anybody that listens to the entire ‘Meet the Press’ … will see that I stand with the president,” Booker said on the show. “I’ve been standing for Barack Obama before most people were standing with Barack Obama.”

He then proclaimed on Twitter a series of reasons he supports the president using the hashtag “#IStandWithObama.”

CHAMBER WANTS DONATIONS KEPT SECRET

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce figures to be a big player in the 2012 fundraising arms race, with plans to spend in excess of $50 million and by targeting specific congressional races. As far as how that money will be spent, most questions remain unanswered, NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns reports.

“We don’t disclose where we get our money and we don’t tell people how much we spend,” Chamber President Tom Donohue told reporters Monday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

In April, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, participating in “electioneering communications” must disclose their donors. As a tax-exempt group, the Chamber of Commerce was not previously mandated to disclose its contributors.

“[Disclosure] is all about intimidation…they want to be able to intimidate people to not put their money into the electoral process,” Donohue said. “We will have a vigorous…election program. These cases do not change that.”

Donohue said it is in the chamber’s best interest to avoid disclosure, because he knows a half-dozen “well-known business people” who were “fundamentally attacked” by the Obama campaign for their contributions to Republican groups.

The Chamber of Commerce spent $33 million in the 2010 midterm elections and is on pace to blow past that quickly. According to the chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, Bruce Josten, the chamber began spending for this cycle last November, the earliest it has ever ramped up.

Chamber officials said the group is ready to take some members of Congress to task for votes seen as unfriendly to the business community on the transportation bill and the Export Import Bank reauthorization. They said the group plans to spread its endorsements like “peanut butter,” but the money will flow to the most competitive, chamber-friendly candidates.

“We endorse lots and lots of people, that doesn’t mean we’re going to spend any money on them. We’re going to put the money in the races that are up for grabs,” Donohue said.

“It’s not just ads, which everybody fixates on, there is a lot of activity on the ground,” Josten said.

The Washington Post has a related story Tuesday, looking at a fight that “has been unfolding this spring at annual corporate meetings, where shareholders are mounting an intensifying effort to push companies to disclose the money they spend on lobbying and political campaigns.”

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is not ready to endorse the president’s re-election bid, despite backing Mr. Obama in 2008 at a pivotal moment during the campaign, the Republican said on NBC’s ‘Today Show.’ Powell said he is “still listening” to both candidates’ plans.

  • The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters takes readers behind the scenes of an ad from American Crossroads, from focus group to screen.

  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney will host a fundraiser for Romney at his home in Wyoming, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • The Republican National Committee has a new web video Tuesday slamming the president for the high price of college and rising student loan debt.

  • Congressional Democrats tell Politico’s Manu Raju that the president just doesn’t call anymore.

  • USA Today made a nifty chart showing the 49 people and organizations that have contributed $1 million or more to super PACs this cycle, totaling nearly $116 million.

  • The latest Obama fundraising gimmick is a trip to New York to meet President Obama and former President Bill Clinton. “Meeting two presidents at the same time? Now, that’s almost ridiculously cool,” campaign manager Jim Messina writes in a fundraising email promoting the June 4 event. “This promises to be one amazing evening. Imagine how great it would be to be a fly on the wall when Presidents Obama and Clinton get together. Now imagine getting to be part of the conversation.”

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama has no public events scheduled.

  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Keene, N.H., at 1:45 p.m. and attends a campaign event in Boston at 5:45 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.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan and @tiffanymullon.