I find myself in agreement with Bill Kristol, who according to Politco said yesterday on Fox News that Romney and his people ought to be worried that with the anemic economy, they and he are not doing better:
“President Obama had three disappointing months, but he's holding his own. And if I were in the Romney campaign, that would worry me,” Kristol said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Kristol cited numbers from a recent Fox News poll, which showed that just 41 percent of voters think the president has a clear plan for improving the economy.
“Not great for an incumbent president -- the economy is slow and you’re only at 41-53,” he said. But the numbers were even worse for Romney, Kristol pointed out.
“Do you think his challenger, Gov. Romney, has a clear plan for improving the economy or not? Yes 27, no 55. I don't think you can beat an incumbent president even if the economy’s slow if 27 percent of the voters think you as the challenger don't have a clear plan for improving the economy.
If you look at Real Clear Politics today, Obama is 2.6 percentage points ahead, with intrade odds of 56.1 to 41.1 over Romney, and a 221-181 electoral vote advantage. RCP tilts Republican of course, so if go over to Nate Silver at the Times, you get a somewhat sunnier Obama picture. Silver gives Obama a 67 percent chance of winning, and 291 electoral votes, which already puts Potus over the top (Silver assigns all EV's and has no toss-up states).
Should Romney be doing better than this? It's hard to say with certainty. Conservatives will remind us that Reagan trailed Carter at this point and crushed him. But 1980 was the stone age compared to today's political and media culture. Voters have so much more information now than they did then--people barely knew what a jobs report was in 1980. So there really are no parallels. Maybe to some extent 2004, when Bush never polled above 50 percent approval all year--except in November, when people had to choose between him and this other flesh-and-blood guy they didn't like all that much and chose him by 51 percent.
I take Kristol's point to be that Romney needs to be more specific, and I suppose he does. But I think he has a bigger problem than the specifics. He's just not a very likeable guy, as I've written. I really do think that a likeable guy who didn't pander so shamelessly and weakly to his party's radicals and seemed more at ease and empathetic would be six points ahead.
There is that old chestnut about people having to decide they want this guy to be in their TV rooms for the next four years. I continue to think that most people just don't want Romney. Obviously that isn't to say he can't win, because a large number of very rich people do want him, very badly, and a few corrupt governors and state legislators who are busy rigging their states' voting systems. They could pull it out for him. To his fellow 1 percenters, I'd imagine he's very likeable. But not to the rest of us.