Romney’s Reward – And Risks in Economic Speech

This afternoon in Las Vegas, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will give a speech outlining his plan for turning around the economy. And, it couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the one-time GOP frontrunner.

An ABC/Washington Post poll out today shows President Obama with the highest disapproval ratings of his presidency and his lowest marks yet on his handling of the economy.

Just 43 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as President with 53 percent disapproving.

On the economy the numbers are even more bleak for the President. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, including a whopping 47 percent who “strongly” disapprove. An equal number disapprove of Obama’s ability to create jobs, including 45 percent who “strongly” disapprove.

These are the sorts of numbers that most incumbents find to be career enders.

But, Romney’s challenge – and that of all the GOP candidates running for President – is to find a way to distance himself from an even more unpopular GOP Congress.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their jobs – the highest on record in ABC/Washington Post polling. And, as Gary Langer of Langer Research writes in his analysis, “Moreover, for all Obama’s weak ratings, he still runs about evenly with the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the economy, 42 percent vs. 39 percent; job creation, 40-40 percent; and the federal deficit, 39-42 percent. ”

However, if Romney’s Las Vegas speech simply just a longer version of an op-ed he penned today for USA Today , it won’t do much to make that distinction with his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill. Though he writes that his economic plan will consist of “59 specific proposals, including 10 concrete actions I will take on my first day in office to turn around America’s economy,” his essay doesn’t cut any new ground but focuses on traditional GOP talking points like cutting taxes, loosening regulation, and paring back “Obamacare”.

The bigger challenge for Romney, however, will to be able to deliver to the American public not just answers but optimism as well.

For the last eight years Americans have said they are unhappy with the way things are going in this country, yet they still remain hopeful that things are going to turn around soon.

The ABC/Washington Post poll found that 77 percent of Americans think the country is “headed in the wrong direction” with only 20 percent who think it’s headed on the “right track” In the 33 polls ABC/Washington Post has taken since April of 2004, in only one poll (in April of 2009) did more people believe the country was headed in the right direction than believed it was going the wrong way.

Given that, it’s remarkable that the poll released today showed that 45 percent of Americans say they are optimistic that the jobs situation in this country will improve in the future, compared to 50 percent who are pessimistic.

It is this innate sense of American “can do-ism” that Obama stressed yesterday at a Labor Day speech Detroit – a city that knows a little something about disappointment.

“Yes, times are tough,” said the President. “But we’ve been through tough times before. I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared of tough times because I know we’re going to be all marching together and working together and rebuilding together and I know we don’t quit.”

The problem for the President is that while the rhetoric is right, the polling shows that for now at least, Americans have lost confidence his ability to deliver on those promises.