The topline results of the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll show President Obama leading Mitt Romney by six points, 49% to 43%, which is up from a three-point lead the incumbent enjoyed a month ago. Perhaps more importantly, the poll found the president with an eight-point lead in 12 battleground states.
But there was another detail that jumped out at me.
Romney's overall favorable/unfavorable score remains a net negative – a trait no other modern presumptive GOP presidential nominee (whether Bob Dole, George W. Bush or John McCain) has shared.... In fact, Romney would be the first GOP presumptive presidential nominee since 1996 to head into his nominating convention with a net-negative favorable/unfavorable score.
I put together a chart showing the favorable/unfavorable ratings for Obama, Romney, Vice President Biden, and the two major parties. The GOP nominee clearly isn't faring well.
What's more, the number of people with no opinion is extremely small (only 2%). I mention this because Romney isn't suffering because Americans haven't heard enough about him -- folks know exactly who he is and have formed opinions accordingly. (Also note, a majority of respondent (52%) said Romney lacks "a background and set of values" they can identify with.)
This hardly means Romney's a sure-fire loser. If the American mainstream is deeply dissatisfied with the status quo and blames the president, even if he doesn't deserve it, voters may very well hold their nose and elect the guy they don't like.
But the fact that people don't seem to like him makes his task inherently more difficult.
As we've discussed before, at a certain level, factors like favorable/unfavorable ratings may seem irrelevant. After all, presidential races aren't personality contests.
Except, a lot of the time, like it or not, they are personality contests. Think about how many times you've heard about which candidate voters would prefer "to have a beer with."
Especially in the television era, the candidate who's better liked is generally better positioned to win, and at least at this point, voters' perceptions of Romney just aren't favorable at all. After nearly six years on the national campaign trail, Americans don't seem to like the guy.
Markos dug up another interesting tidbit: "It turns out that [John] Kerry, according to NBC polling, never had a net-negative favorability rating.... For all the comparisons with 2004, that's one big difference -- Kerry was far better liked than Mitt Romney. And Kerry wasn't exactly beloved."
For all the comparisons of 2012 to 2004, Americans had a more favorable impression of Kerry than Romney.