Oct 11, 2012 No Comments ›› Chuck Biscuits
Excerpted from The New York Times: WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney is seen by more voters in three battleground states as a strong leader after his dominant debate performance last week, but perceptions that the economy is improving remain a buttress for President Obama as the 2012 campaign comes down to its final weeks.
The latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, of likely voters in the three states, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, found no sharp movement after the debate and the news last Friday that the unemployment rate in September had dropped below 8 percent for the first time since Mr. Obama took office.
But the poll suggested that Mr. Romney had gained strength in a number of ways since last month and that Mr. Obama’s best defense is the somewhat brighter economic outlook and the fact that voters continue to relate to him more than they do to his opponent.
Mr. Romney’s backers now support him more fervently than before. He is running stronger in particular among those who say they are paying especially close attention to the race. He retains his dominance on the issue of handling the federal budget deficit and seems to have stabilized his showing on handling of the economy.
About two-thirds of the voters in each state said Mr. Romney has strong leadership qualities, more than said the same of the president.
“The debate made me feel better about” Mr. Romney, one poll respondent, Paula Gregory, 37, a clerical manager for a construction firm who lives in Highlands Ranch, Colo., said in a follow-up interview. “I had more specific information from him and he had real rebuttals to accusations that had been made, most specifically about his tax plan.”
But Mr. Obama holds a slim advantage in Virginia and Wisconsin, and remains tied with Mr. Romney in Colorado, perhaps, in part, because voters are growing increasingly hopeful that the country’s economy is turning around. That conclusion follows last Friday’s report showing the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent, the first dip below 8 percent since January 2009. In Virginia, 42 percent of voters say the economy is getting better, up from 24 percent in July; in Colorado the figure is 37 percent, up 11 points in three months.
The positive economic news appears to have buffered the president in Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado from the substantial improvement in Mr. Romney’s national poll numbers over the past week. The three battleground polls suggest that challenges remain for Mr. Romney in the next 26 days even as his supporters express new confidence about their candidate.
“It’s slow and steady, but the job market is growing,” Thomas Broderick, 50, a doctor from Madison, Wis., said in a follow-up interview. “Also, from what I see around my city, the housing market is better. People are able to sell their homes. Houses are being built. If the economy were in the tank, perhaps it would be harder to vote for Obama.”
In Virginia and Wisconsin, Mr. Obama maintains double-digit leads over his rival when voters are asked which candidate cares about their needs and who would do a better job for the middle class. The preference for Mr. Obama on those issues is smaller in Colorado, a state where the two candidates have been virtually tied for months.
The president’s support is built on strengths that have been evident for months. In the two states where he holds an advantage overall, Mr. Obama has consistently outperformed Mr. Romney on a series of issues, including international affairs, health care and Medicare.
And in those states, Mr. Obama’s months of advertising attacking Mr. Romney’s character appears to have worked. The president maintains significant leads over Mr. Romney on the issue of trust and honesty. Nearly 60 percent of voters in Virginia and Wisconsin say Mr. Obama is trustworthy and honest; just 47 percent say the same of Mr. Romney.
Suzanne DiLisi, 44, a restaurant worker from Marshall, Va., said Wednesday that she planned to vote for Mr. Obama because of concerns that Mr. Romney would not help lower-income people like herself.
“Financially speaking, I believe Romney will cut the debt,” Ms. DiLisi said. “But he will do it at the expense of people who are already suffering.” She pointed to Mr. Romney’s comment that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government.
“Those remarks, they were awful,” she said. “As president, you literally have to work for the very poor to the very rich.”
The New York Times, in collaboration with Quinnipiac University and CBS News, is tracking the presidential race with recurring polls in six states. The current surveys, which have margins of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for each candidate, were conducted from Oct. 4 to Oct. 9, after the debate in Denver.
Officials with both campaigns expressed confidence about success in Virginia and Wisconsin. Mr. Romney’s campaign hopes that his selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate will help him in a state that Mr. Obama won decisively in 2008. In Virginia, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have each fielded intensive on-the-ground operations and millions of dollars in ads.
Mr. Romney’s campaign is targeting the state’s traditionally Democratic coal country, its military-heavy communities of Virginia Beach and Newport News, and Asian population centers in Northern Virginia, officials at the campaign said.
“There’s no area of Virginia that’s off the table,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, who won three years ago by earning support in those same parts of the state. “Overwhelmingly in Virginia, it’s jobs and spending. I think that Mitt Romney’s message works everywhere.”
Mr. Obama’s campaign strategists said the president was working hard to repeat his 2008 victory in the state. He has visited Virginia 44 times since becoming president, officials said.
“It was always going to be close,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia. He said fund-raising and enthusiasm had actually picked up since Mr. Obama’s disappointing debate performance. “It helped Romney. But there’s a counter-reaction, too. And it’s not deflation. It’s a call to arms.”
The picture is a bit different in Colorado, where support for the two candidates is evenly divided across a broad series of issues. Mr. Romney fares better in Colorado among women than he does in the other two states.
“We are basically sitting at a statistical tie today,” said James Garcia, Mr. Romney’s state director in Colorado. But he said enthusiasm for Mr. Romney had surged since the debate, in Denver. “Volunteer enthusiasm is through the roof. ”
The new polling in Colorado backs that up. Six out of 10 Romney voters in the state now say they are strongly favoring him rather than offering lukewarm support or just opposing Mr. Obama. Earlier this summer, just over half of his voters said that.