Commentary Magazine


Romney Closes Likability Gap

Today’s Politico/GWU poll has Mitt Romney trailing President Obama by one point nationally, but leading by two points in the swing states. In even better news for the Romney campaign, Mitt’s nearly closed the likability gap with Obama:

Even as the head-to-head number held stubbornly steady for the past month, Romney improved his likability numbers. A slim majority, 51 percent, now views Romney favorably as a person, while 44 percent view him unfavorably.

The former Massachusetts governor had been underwater on this measure. In mid-September, 49 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably. Going into the first presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, the electorate was evenly split 47 percent to 47 percent on what to make of Mitt. …

Obama’s enduring personal popularity has been a key reason for his political resiliency. But Obama and Romney are now essentially tied on likability: 53 percent of those surveyed have a positive impression of Obama personally, and 45 percent do not. The same number view both Romney and Obama strongly favorably as view them strongly unfavorably.

Likability was the one area where the Obama campaign had a reliable advantage throughout the election. The campaign invested much of its war chest in negative ads to drive up Romney’s personal unfavorables, and Romney may have negated all of that with just one (free) debate performance.

We’ll see this week if Romney can keep this momentum going, or if Obama can undo some of it in tomorrow’s debate. David Axelrod has promised that Obama will be much more “aggressive” tomorrow that he was at the last debate. But with Romney standing right there and able to defend himself, there are limits to what Obama can say. I can’t imagine he’s going to accuse Romney of being a felon or causing the death of a steelworker’s wife, like his campaign and supporting super PAC did over the summer. Attacking Romney’s proposed policies is one thing, but Obama may damage his own image if he stoops to more personal attacks.