I've been reporting all year on one of Mitt Romney's central challenges as a presidential candidate: voters just don't seem to like the guy. Three months before Election Day, the problem isn't getting better.
This chart comes from the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which found Romney's favorability ratings getting slightly worse -- and they weren't great to begin with. President Obama's standing isn't exactly impressive, but compared to his Republican rival, he's Mr. Popularity.
A few months ago, Romney "finished the primary season with the lowest favorability for a presumptive nominee in ABC/Post polls back 28 years." And now? "Mitt Romney is laboring under the lowest personal popularity ratings for a presumptive presidential nominee in midsummer election-year polls back to 1984."
It's not just one pollster, either. The results are consistent in multiple independent surveys.
Campaign Management 101 suggests national candidates can boost their favorability ratings by running positive ads that convince voters they're likable and appealing. That doesn't seem to be much of an option for Romney, though -- he prefers to use his vast resources to tear President Obama down, not build himself up.
It's not too late for Romney's standing to improve, but the Republican campaign is running out of excuses. He's unpopular because he's in the middle of a contentious primary? The nominating process ended months ago. He's unpopular because voters haven't gotten a good look at him? Romney's been running for president, nearly non-stop, for more than six years.
For Democrats, this offers reason for optimism, but it comes with caveats. As we've discussed, 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 dislike.
But the fact that people don't seem to care for Romney makes his task inherently more difficult.