Commentary Magazine


Obama vs. Romney: Sympathy vs. Solutions

Today’s Quinnipiac poll finds President Obama leading Mitt Romney, 46 to 42. But it also highlights the very different strengths that each candidate has to offer. While registered voters give Obama higher ratings in more subjective areas – likeability and caring – Romney gets higher points on the economy, job creation and gas prices, three of the top policy concerns for voters:

Looking at personal characteristics, 81 percent of American voters think the president is likable, compared to 63 percent for Romney. Obama cares about their needs and problems, 57 percent say, compared to 44 percent for Romney. The Republican has strong leadership qualities, 61 percent say, compared to 60 percent for the president, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll of 2,577 American voters finds.

Romney is seen as better on the economy 47 – 43 percent, better on creating jobs 45 – 42 percent, better on gas prices 44 – 31 percent and better on immigration 43 – 39 percent. The president is viewed 52 – 32 percent as better on women’s issues and 46 – 40 percent on foreign policy. The two men are seen equally on taxes and health care.

Clearly, this is one reason why the Obama campaign is trying to divert attention to issues that relate to compassion and personality, i.e., the digs at Romney’s wealth, allegations that he doesn’t care about women, and boosting the irrelevant non-scandal about Romney’s dog. During the past couple of weeks, Republicans have pretty successfully neutralized the war on women and the dog attacks by forcing the Obama campaign to meet its own ridiculous standards. But this poll is a warning for Romney not to let himself become too distracted by these trivial sideshows. Yes, he should fight back, but once the Obama campaign attacks are defused, Romney shouldn’t dwell on them or try to milk the victories. He should keep his focus on the real issues, the ones the president’s reelection team hope they can avoid talking about.