At this point in his lengthy political career, Mitt Romney has had quite a while to introduce himself to the American public. He is, after all, in the midst of his second presidential campaign, and has been on the trail pretty much non-stop for nearly six years.
Indeed, Romney is poised to win the Republican presidential nomination, which has kept him the national spotlight consistently for the last year. And yet, after getting a good long look at the former governor, a striking number of Americans just don't seem to like him.
Mitt Romney trails Barack Obama by 19 points in basic popularity as the 2012 presidential contest inches closer to the main event, with a record 50 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll now rating Romney unfavorably overall.
Thirty-four percent hold a favorable opinion of Romney, the lowest for any leading presidential candidate in ABC/Post polls in primary seasons since 1984.
That last point is of particular interest. It's tempting to think every major-party frontrunner emerges from a primary process with weakened favorability numbers -- intra-party contests are often bruising -- but that's just not the case. Four years ago, Obama became better liked as voters got to know him, but this year, Romney isn't just disliked, he's also more disliked at this point in the process than any candidate in nearly three decades.
Here's a chart I put together showing Obama's and Romney's favorability ratings overall and among Democrats, Republicans, independents, and self-identified moderates.
The fact that most Dems like Obama and most Republicans like Romney isn't at all surprising -- though Romney's support in the GOP looks rather soft, especially compared to the president's standing in his party -- but note that Obama is easily better liked among Americans in general, as well as indies and moderates.
Remember, this is just about favorability -- it has nothing to do with whether Americans agree with the candidates or like their ideas/policies, and everything to do with the whether voters have a favorable impression of these guys or not.
These figures may well change in the coming months, as more Republicans settle on Romney, the former governor shakes the Etch A Sketch to curry favor with the mainstream, and Republicans launch a well-financed crusade to destroy the president. But with roughly seven months to go until Election Day, the likely GOP nominee has a problem that's hard to fix: the more folks see him, the less folks like him. It's not a new concern, either.
Since disliked candidates usually lose, this should cause some discomfort in Republican circles.