SHOULDN'T THE PRESS BE ASKING MITT ROMNEY WHY HE'S NOT CRUSHING OBAMA?
I recall that things seemed pretty awful back in 1980, so it wasn't surprising that Jimmy Carter struggled in his reelection bid and then lost badly to Ronald Reagan. However, I just went here and searched the monthly unemployment numbers for that year, and I see that they never went above 7.8%.
The unemployment peak in the year Poppy Bush lost, 1992, was 7.7%.
By contrast, President Obama hasn't an unemployment number lower than 8.1% at any point in his presidency.
I can give you all sorts of reasons why Obama should be reelected, but it would make perfect sense if he were trailing his GOP opponent badly right now. At the very least, it would make perfect sense if Obama's approval and reelect numbers were terrible. (Carter and Poppy Bush lost in three-candidate races; at this point in the years they lost, the guys who eventually beat them weren't blowing them away, but both Carter and Bush were below 40% in three-way match-ups.)
All the headlines for Obama right now look bad. "Obama's Ratings Sink on Economic Doubts." "Obama's White Base Shows Cracks Compared with 2008." "Now Union Members Are Deserting Obama." "A Chilly Reception from Independents on Obama's Plans for the Economy." So why is Obama running even with Mitt Romney, or slightly ahead?
Well, some of those doomy headlines are misleading. The "chilly reception from independents"? The reception for Mitt Romney isn't much better:
Swing-voting independents see Barack Obama's plans for the economy negatively rather than positively by 54-38 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll....
It's no party for Mitt Romney either. Independents also rate his economic plans more unfavorably than favorably, by 47-35 percent....
Romney lags among moderates, and does less well among conservatives than Obama does among liberals.
And as I told you last night, swing voters surveyed by James Carville and Stan Greenberg's firm have heard about Bain Capital and been exposed to Romney's Richie Rich talk, and they don't like him:
[Romney will enact] policies that keep himself and his class where they are. There’s a certain -- I think there's a certain level when you get so high up the business where you’re making so much money that you don't need where you just lose some of your humanity and you just don’t care. (Non-college-educated woman, Columbus, OH)....
The press likes to choose sides in campaign years, and this year the press seems to be choosing Romney. Every campaign story these days seems to be about how the Obama campaign is failing and Romney is surging. But Romney isn't surging. He's running even with Obama or slightly behind Obama. A gazillion dollars in super PAC money could change that -- but why isn't Obama on the ropes already?
Is it because voters still blame Bush for running the economy aground? Is it because they know Obama has tried to work with Republicans and Republicans haven't returned the favor (to put it mildly)? Is it because the GOP's party-wide "death before tax cuts for the rich" loyalty oath is extremely unpopular? Is it because Romney comes off as staggeringly devoid of empathy and thoroughly unlikable (and as a guy who's trying not to be likable, because his wingnut base regards consideration of others' viewpoints to be a sellout of conservative principles)?
Why isn't the press's narrative right now about Romney's failure to break through?
Shouldn't he be doing a lot better, just because he's not the status quo guy? Shouldn't we ask him whether he's failing because the brand of politics he represents repels decent people?