6 Ways Mitt Romney's Getting His Butt Kicked

Election '16

One has to admire the conservative brain's ability to stave off cognitive dissonance. Republicans have convinced themselves that Obama is the second coming of Hitler, and were sure that Americas would reject him for a nice-looking white business-guy with good hair. But now things aren't going well, so they've simply decided, en masse, that a conspiracy is afoot. The polls are being skewed, and any minute now Romney will come thundering back to crush the Kenyan interloper.

Here in the real world, however, a different picture is emerging. After the necessary caveats – Romney can still win, external events could shake up the race late, nobody knows how restrictive voting laws will ultimately impact the vote – Romney is getting his butt kicked. And here’s how.

1. The Polls

Conspiracy theories about “skewed” polls aside, Obama maintained a very small but persistent lead throughout most of the spring and summer, and since the conventions, he has opened up a significant lead, especially in the crucial battleground states that decide the election.

The Gallup daily tracking poll has Obama up by 6 points nationwide, and TPM's average of all recent polls has him up by just under 5 points.

But the real story is in the swing states. A Washington Post poll out yesterday found Romney trailing in Ohio by 8 points and by 4 points in Florida – without which, Romney has a very tough map. According to TPM's averages, Obama also enjoys leads in Virginia (4 points), Colorado (3 points), Pennsylvania (8 points), Iowa (4 points), Nevada (5 points), Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin (8 points), New Mexico (9 points), Romney's home state of Michigan (11 points) and a razor-thin lead in New Hampshire. The only “swing state” Romney leads is North Carolina – Mitt's up by a third of one percent there in the average, but Obama's led in the 4 most recent polls.

According to New York Times polling guru Nate Silver, if the election were held today, Obama would have a 96.4 percent chance of victory.

2. The Money Race

It wasn't supposed to be this way, but the Obama campaign crushed Team Romney in August fundraising, setting a new record for the month with $85 million to Romney's $66 million.

That's just the campaign's coffers, however. The Republican National Committee has raised a lot more than its Democratic counterparts. And then there are the outside groups.

But what we're seeing is that having control of the cash means something. Romney doesn't dictate how the RNC or these super-PACs spend their loot, and the result has been a less targeted effort.

As far as ad spending, Paul Blumenthal notes a huge disparity:

The campaign committee might be raking in large numbers, but it has questionably refused to spend big money on advertising. Romney's campaign spent a total of $66 million in August -- the same amount it took in -- with only $18.4 million going to media buys and production. The advertising budget for the Obama campaign nearly equaled the entire Romney August budget, with $65 million put forward for television.

This advertising disparity is nothing new. Since Romney became the presumptive nominee in May, the Obama camp has dumped tens of millions every month into advertising to define the Republican candidate before he could define himself. In total, including August's numbers, the Obama campaign has outspent Romney on advertising by nearly 600 percent -- $171.4 million to just $30.3 million.

3. People Don't Like Mitt Romney

It's been a persistent finding all year: Obama enjoys a higher favorability rating than job approval – some of the people who don't think he's done a good job still like him personally. He had a 10-point net favorability rating in the latest Pew poll.

For Mitt, the story is quite different. As Pew Research noted, Romney is the first candidate since 1988, for either major party, to be saddled with a negative net favorability rating in September.


4. The Issues

Remember them? The story for most of the summer leading up to the conventions was that the American people preferred Obama to Romney on most issues, save the most important one: handling the economy. That's what was keeping the race close.

But Obama's post-convention surge happened as (or because) he pulled ahead of Romney on the economy. According to the latest Washington Post poll:

Fifty percent of all voters say they trust the president more to deal with the economy; 43 percent say so of his Republican challenger... The president also holds a big lead over his rival on who is trusted to advance the interests of the middle class.

That means that Obama now leads not only on key character traits, but on every issue the pollsters ask about, except for whom voters trust more to reduce the deficit. Here's the scorecard from Pew's September 19 survey:


5. Coattails

Obama was not the only politician to emerge from the convention with a gust of wind in his sails. Democrats' newfound enthusiasm seems to be having an impact on down-ballot races. On August 26, the day before the RNC began, Nate Silver gave Democrats a 50-50 chance of holding the Senate. In the month since, their chances of holding the upper chamber have increased to 83 percent.

According to The Hill, Republican strategists are concerned about the top of the ticket dragging down their party’s chances:

Republican strategists say that Romney has had a rough stretch recently and warn it could cost the party Senate seats if his execution fails to improve by November.

“Every year the top of the ticket has a great influence on the races below. Massachusetts is a very competitive race, and we have a great candidate in Scott Brown. If Obama wins overwhelmingly, it’s a lot more difficult for Scott Brown to get reelected,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2000 and 2008 presidential bids.

“If your guy wins the White House, he’s going to sweep in one or two or three Senate races that might not happen otherwise,” he added.

The ongoing Mittastrophe also has a number of GOP candidates for the House squirming.

6. Enthusiasm

The rise in Obama's polls following the conventions is almost entirely a result of disenchanted Democrats coming back into the fold and getting fired up for the general election. For much of the race, the GOP had counted on an “enthusiasm” gap in their favor, but that appears to have reversed itself.

In the latest Washington Post poll, 94 percent of Obama supporters were somewhat or very enthusiastic about voting in November, while just 6 percent were unenthusiastic. Eighty-six percent of Romney voters were similarly fired up, while 13 percent said they were “not so enthusiastic” or “not enthusiastic at all.”

Seventy-five percent of Obama supporters said they were voting for the president, while 22 percent were voting against Romney. It's a very different picture for the Republican: only 45 percent of Romney supporters say they're voting for him, while half say they're voting against Obama.

Losing Older Voters

It should come as a surprise to nobody that Romney's selection of Paul Ryan, and his embrace of Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it, isn't playing well with older voters.

It's wrong to say Romney's losing among this group – he holds a 4-point lead among voters over 60 in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll. But the trend is not looking good for the Republican ticket, as Reuters noted earlier this week:

New polling by Reuters/Ipsos indicates that during the past two weeks -- since just after the Democratic National Convention -- support for Romney among Americans age 60 and older has crumbled, from a 20-point lead over Democratic President Barack Obama to less than 4 points.

Romney's double-digit advantages among older voters on the issues of healthcare and Medicare -- the nation's health insurance program for those over 65 and the disabled -- also have evaporated, and Obama has begun to build an advantage in both areas.

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