Politics

09.19.12

How Romney Lost the Framing Battle

Lots of attention on Wisconsin, of course, so let's start there. A new New York Times/CBS poll shows Obama up six, 51-45. This seems about right to me. Obviously Romney's choice of Ryan was going to create some temporary enthusiasm, but I'd bet we're now seeing matters revert to the mean.

Remember, no Republican has won the state since 1984. Some of those have been tight (2004), but most haven't been that close. I wrote a while back that Ryan would be a net negative in the state by a point or two. I was mostly just trying to get people's goats with that one, but it wouldn't be surprising if he makes no difference one way or the other and Obama wins the state by about the margin (six or so) that he's been leading in the state on average over the course of the past year.

The new NBC/Wall St Journal poll has some interesting findings. Obama is up 50-45 among likely (not registered--likely) voters, which is a fairly big deal. But the main thing here is the slightly better feelings among respondents about the country's economic future, and the uncanny similarity to a certain election year we're starting to hear lots of folks invoke:

According to the survey, 39 percent of registered voters say the country is on the right track, versus 55 percent who say it’s on the wrong track.

That right-track number is a 7-point increase from August, and it’s the highest percentage on this question since Sept. 2009.

Forty-two percent of voters also believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months, which is a 6-point jump from August, and a 15-point rise from July.

What’s more, 47 percent of registered voters approve of the president’s handling of the economy – up 3 points from last month. Obama’s overall job-approval rating stands at 50 percent for the first time since March.

And 38 percent say the country is better off than it was when he became president, which is a 7-point increase from August. But a plurality of voters – 41 percent – maintain that the country is worse off; 21 percent say it’s in the same place...

...Although Obama enjoys these advantages over Romney, the numbers in the NBC/WSJ poll bear a striking resemblance to those from 2004, when Bush narrowly beat Kerry...

...Indeed, in the Sept. 2004 NBC/WSJ poll, 39 percent believed the country was on the right track (versus 39 percent now); 43 percent thought the economy would improve in the next year (versus 42 percent now); and Bush led Kerry by three points among likely voters (versus Obama’s 5-point edge now).

The piece of semi-bad news for Obama in this poll is that his handling of foreign policy approval rating dropped five points, from 54 in the previous poll to 49 here. He's still in the black by 49-40, but it does seem as though the Bengazi attack and the other protests raised the trepidation level and cost him some points.

The poll was taken before the release of the video, so it's still too early to see what impact that has.

Yes yes, all the usual caveats. But what I take away from this poll and from other recent developments is this key point: Romney has lost the basic "framing battle" of the campaign. The Romney goal, going way back a year or even two, was to frame this election as a referendum on Obama. Well, they've failed at that. And I think it's probably too late now to make the election a referendum on Obama because there are too many questions about Romney. Some of those were raised by the Obama campaign, but most of them, the more damning ones, have been raised by Romney himself.