Fair. Balanced. American.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some thoughts on the latest CBS/New York Times poll

With the usual caveat that this is just registered voters, no likely voter screen. Some are arguing for a GOP advantage of as much as 6 points for likely voters versus registered, though I would limit it 2%, which at this moment, looks pretty damn crucial.

1. Obama's job approval in this poll is exactly 50%. If registered voters matche likelies, that would mean Romney has no shot at all. But when the disapproval rating is 48%, all that proves is that this could turn on a dime. Add the problem of turnout, and we're at the razor's edge. And here's a striking thing: Obama is not getting re-elect numbers that match job approval. Chalk it up to the GOP's "Obama's a nice guy who's in over his head" rhetoric or something else, but Romney is beating him 46-43, even though the President has a 50% job performance number. Something here is not computing. Strangely, in this poll, Obama's favorables are 45-45. So this is either an anomaly or a sign that job approval numbers might not be the go-to in this election that they ordinarily are.

2. The rating for the economy (31% say fairly good, while 39% say fairly bad and 28% very bad) is disturbing. But these are also the best numbers in Obama's entire presidency. Crucially, the previous top number came just one month ago. So something is definitely happening out there, fragile as it might be. But it's also worth noting that amalgamated "good" numbers for Bush in 2004 were close to 55%.

3. 36% say the economy is improving. Those are better numbers than any recorded in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 or 2008. They are close to a high water mark for the President, but there was a brief moment, from late 2009 to early 2010, where he did a bit better.

4. 19% of Americans are either undecided on Romney and 12% claim they haven't heard enough. That's 31% of the country that can be affected by negative campaigning, which is another reason that if you have money to spend on campaigning, Priorities USA might be an excellent direction to send it towards.

5. The headline is that "more Americans favor gay marriage." But the numbers are 38-31, with 24% supporting civil unions. Civil unions supporters are not necessarily Obama voters, since they don't favor full equality. They could very well be right-leaning Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and Western independents. And indeed, if pushed and not given the option of civil unions, 51% of Americans say same sex marriage should not be legal, with 42% saying it should be. 50% favor a federal marriage amendment.

6. 69% now say they have a "work colleague, close friend, or relative who is gay or lesbian," an all time record.

7. So to summarize, danger all around. I'd suggest that the President's team go massively negative on Romney's economic record, particularly in Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania. To the degree that those states are safe, it's hard to see a path to victory for Romney, even with a small popular vote victory. Indeed, one of the big unknowns on gay marriage is its regional background. If there are supermajorities against it in the South and non-Pacific West, that may not hurt the President much where he actually needs to win.

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