Greg Sargent: Latest poll shows Romney’s challenges

08/30/2012 12:00 AM

08/29/2012 3:49 PM

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll illustrates the challenges Mitt Romney faces as he attempts to reintroduce himself to the American people. It shows Romney and President Obama locked in a statistical tie, with Romney leading 47 to 46 percent among registered voters nationally (Obama leads among all adults, 49 to 42 percent.).

While Romney holds an edge on the generic question of who would do a better job handling the economy (50 to 43 percent), Obama holds a significant advantage on a range of other questions: who is more trusted on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage (Obama leads 52 to 38 percent), who is more trusted to address women’s issues (51 to 35 percent), who seems like the more friendly and likable person (61 to 27 percent), who is seen to favor the middle class more than the wealthy (61 to 30 percent), and who better understands Americans’ economic problems (47 to 40 percent).

Forty-three percent say they are confident the economy will get on track if Obama is re-elected; 56 percent say they are not. The numbers for Romney were a virtually identical 43 and 55 percent.

Swing voters may be concluding that neither man has the answer to their economic problems. Obama’s best hope may be to fight Romney to a draw on the economy by persuading voters that even if they are disillusioned with the pace of the recovery, Romney doesn’t have the answer either. That’s the goal of the Obama attacks on Romney’s years at Bain Capital (undercutting his core case that private-sector experience has equipped him to turn around the country).

This would free up the election to be fought on turf where Obama holds a clear advantage. At the convention, Romney needs to make a more persuasive case that he has the answer to people’s economic problems and needs to start closing the gap on likability, empathy and the interests of the middle class, while casting himself as less threatening to women and minorities.

The question is what material Romney has left to accomplish all this.

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