July 19, 2012 -- Analysis
New polls out today show that the economy, not Romney's record at Bain Capital or his tax returns, are defining this contest for voters across the country. And, that's not good for Team Obama.A fresh New York Times-CBS News poll showed that, nationally, the presidential race is a dead heat: 45 percent said they would vote for Mitt Romney if the election were held today and 43 percent said they would vote to re-elect President Obama.
As The New York Times Jim Rutenberg and Marjorie Connelly note, "Declining confidence in the nation's economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up...Despite the months-long onslaught of negative advertisements from Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies seeking to define Mr. Romney as out of touch with the middle class and representative of wealthy interests, there is little evidence in the poll of any substantial nationwide shift in attitudes about Mr. Romney."
And the problem evidenced by today's poll is even deeper for the president as ABC's Amy Walter notes, "Voters remain sour on both the direction of the economy and Obama's handling of it. Perhaps the most troubling sign for Obama: among independent voters, just 31 percent think Obama can help improve the economy if given more time, but a majority (53 percent) say that he 'will never improve it.'"For their part, the Romney campaign could not be happier with the results of the latest survey. The campaign circulated the poll last night with a series of "questions to consider," including: "Has President Obama Forgotten, 'It's The Economy, Stupid?'"
"The economy is a great riptide that is taking Obama out to sea. And they're going around pouring sand all over the beach, but they're not teaching him how to swim," a Romney aide told the Huffington Post's Jon Ward. "Until they start talking about what this race is about, it's all chaff." All week long, political prognosticators have been speculating that Romney might announce his running mate in order to turn the page on a litany of bad headlines, but with each passing day that seems less likely.
And as ABC's Rick Klein points out: "The story yesterday was that the Bain and tax return attacks were working; the story today is that the economy is still the biggest issue for voters. Both may be true, and of course each side has an incentive in their argument being the one that sticks. But the election will still hinge on the Obama economy, not simply the Romney biography -- a reason for Republicans to exhale after a breathless few weeks."
BOTTOM LINE: Today's poll may be the thing that helps Romney finally "turn the page" in the race back to economy.
Read more HERE