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Why Aren’t Anti-Romney Attacks Sticking?

The past three months have been President Obama’s window of opportunity, a time when he’s had both a spending advantage and bully pulpit advantage over Mitt Romney. But the fundraising gap is quickly closing, Obama’s burning through his cash reserves, and before long Romney will dominate news cycle with his VP decision and the convention speeches. If both candidates continue raising money at their current paces, Obama may be the one lagging financially after August.

With all that said, why — despite Obama’s extensive advantages — have his attacks on Romney failed to move the dial? NJ’s Josh Kraushaar reports on the lack of progress:

For all the attention paid to the effectiveness of President Obama’s Bain-themed attacks, it’s remarkable how Obama has been stuck right around 47 percent for a very long time. As the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza documented, the president’s team has handily outspent Romney and his allied super PACs, pouring in $91 million into eight swing states in an early spending barrage intended to make Romney seem an unacceptable challenger. But for all that effort, the numbers haven’t moved much at all: The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll out today shows the race deadlocked at 47 percent. Yesterday’s USA Today/Gallup swing state poll showed Obama statistically tied with Romney, the exact same result the survey showed one month ago.

Meanwhile, in the coming months, Romney should have a spending advantage, having significantly outraised Obama over the last two months. Along with the RNC, the campaign has $160 million cash-on-hand, a total that will likely be greater than the Obama team’s money. (The Obama campaign tellingly didn’t release their cash-on-hand figures.) That will allow Romney to match or surpass Obama on the airwaves, having survived a period when he was outgunned. The Romney campaign has already hinted it plans to counterattack by raising questions about Obama’s credibility. And American Crossroads announced it has reserved $40 million of television ad time in the final two months – when more voters are paying close attention.

What’s the problem here? Is it that the attacks aren’t believable, that voters believe them but don’t care, or voters aren’t paying attention yet? Or some combination of all three?

It could be that the attacks on Romney aren’t particularly effective because they’re focused on personal issues — his time at Bain Capital, his tax returns, Swiss bank account, etc. — as opposed to policy. The Obama campaign wants to tarnish Romney on a human level, which makes sense considering the fact that voters still find Obama very likable. But Americans are primarily worried about the direction of the country and the economy. Unless the Obama campaign can make the case that Romney’s policies would be harmful, voters may not be swayed by the personal attacks. After all, most politicians use personal attacks, exaggerate and lie about their opponents, and play on public emotion. How much of this gets tuned out after a point?



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