Saturday, June 02, 2012

Obama vs. Romney: Who feels your pain?

By Richard K. Barry

Everybody is taking about the latest dismal job report. Republicans are beside themselves happy about the misery this signals for many Americans. Democrats are rightly concerned about where the economy might be headed and what this could mean for the election in the fall.

This is all true, and the importance of it is not to be diminished.

A new CNN poll, admittedly taken before the new job numbers were released, still contains some interesting data.

It finds that President Obama's approval rating is up to 52%, ahead of Romney by 3 point, which would certainly seem to suggest that Americans are still not blaming Obama for the shape of the economy, and the state in which he found it.

Two other results, however, seem quite key.

The CNN survey asks: "Who do you think better understands how the economy works - Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?" The response was deadlocked at 45%.

Okay. That seems like a pretty good number for Obama. The candidate, Romney, who is putting all his eggs in the, "I know how the economy works" basket, can't put any distance between himself and the guy Romney constantly says, "has never run a business." How could that be good for Romney?

Another question asks: "Who do you think better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans -- Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?" On this one, Obama is out ahead of Romney by a 55% to 34% margin.

This, it seems to me, is very important. Being a businessman, knowing how the economy works, is only an electoral strength if most voters think that strength will be put to work to improve their situation.

If the majority of voters think Romney is mostly interested in helping the very rich, perhaps due to a belief in the discredited theory of "trickle-down economics," his knowledge of the economy would be less compelling.

The Obama campaign has been, and will continue to be, hard at work reinforcing this impression with ads that paint Romney as out of touch. You can count on that.

It's true, as the Romney campaign likes to say, that it's hard for a presidential campaign to success if it insists on attacking capitalism. But most people want to see capitalism conducted in as fair a way a possible, with rules that give everyone a fighting chance.

If Mitt Romney is seen as a poster boy for the kind of policies that help the rich get richer and keep the middle class increasingly on the outside looking in, no amount of business experience is going to help him win.

It's also true the shape of the economy will be key come November. But close attention should be paid to how Americans view the ability of Obama vs. Romney to identify with their circumstances and how keen each will be to implement policies to address them.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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  • I am a republican and I am not happy about the job situation. Why do you generalize so uch?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 PM  

  • Fair enough. But you can't tell me that the Romney campaign and Republican leadership is unhappy with the bad jobs report.

    By Blogger Richard K. Barry, at 10:20 PM  

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