On the eve of a high-stakes speech to defend his handling of the weak economy and attack Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama got another dose of bad news on Wednesday in the form of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that found independent swing voters decidedly bearish on his approach.
Only 38 percent of those up-for-grabs Americans have favorable views of Obama's economic plans, with a majority (54 percent) disapproving. The good news for the embattled president? They aren't much more impressed by Romney's economic ideas -- 47 percent rate his approach unfavorably, with just 35 percent in favor.
While the five-month gap between now and election day is a proverbial eternity in politics, the survey highlighted Obama's challenges as he pleads with struggling Americans to give him a second term. The president's arguments on the economy, fleshed out over scores of campaign events in the past few months, boil down to saying that the Great Recession was deeper than he anticipated, that his policies have helped turn things around, that he understands deep voter frustration over the stop-start nature of the recovery, and that Romney would return to the policies that helped cause the meltdown in the first place. The incumbent also aims to convince voters to view the election as a choice, rather than a referendum on his policies.
Obama planned to deliver a speech on his economic policy Thursday in the critical battleground of Ohio. Officials have made clear that he won't unveil any major new proposals — and Democrats are increasingly grumbling that Republicans in Congress won't sign on to any White House proposals for tackling 8.2 percent unemployment before the election. "The president will outline the choice in this election: between a vision for moving our country forward, ensuring that our economy is built to last and restoring economic security for the middle class, and Mitt Romney's vision, based on the same failed economic policies that brought on the worst crisis since the Great Depression," said the Obama campaign in a preview of the remarks, to be delivered at Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll found that moderate voters see Obama's proposals favorably by a razor-thin 48-46 percent margin, and rate Romney's unfavorably 47-37 percent. And Obama has more liberals on board with his approach — they support his policies by a two-to-one edge — than Romney has conservatives, who favor the former Massachusetts governor's approach 53-34 percent.
The survey had an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Another new poll, this one by Reuters/Ipsos, found that deep worries about the economy had wiped out Obama's previous edge over Romney nationally in the presidential race.
The news agency reported that Obama's ratings fell most sharply among independents, from 48 percent last month to 35 percent.
A Gallup public opinion poll released last week found Obama's job approval rating averaged 47% in May — below the 50% mark seen as critical for incumbents seeking reelection.