Reporting Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign is still trying to deal with the fallout from his comments about not caring about half of the American electorate. But it may be all for naught if recent polling trends continue.
In recent polling, President Barack Obama has started to or has reached the magic 50 percent number of likely voters. The last NBC/Wall Street Journal gave President Obama a 50-45 percent lead among likely voters with an approval rating of 50 percent.
The latest AP poll pegged Obama and Romney in a statistical tie with Romney, with Obama capturing a 47-46 percent lead among likely voters. Among registered voters the lead for Obama extended to ten points, 50-40 and among all adults the lead extended to 15 points, 52-37 percent.
The problem that both campaigns have among likely voters is how to capture the remaining few undecided voters. The AP poll found that among likely voters, 95 percent were certain to vote for their candidate, with just 5 percent saying there’s a chance they could change their mind.
Additionally, Obama’s job performance numbers in the AP poll found that among likely voters, he has a 52-47 percent job approval rating. Obama’s numbers on handling the economy in a second-term improved among likely voters to 48-47 percent and 50-43 percent amongst registered voters.
On a state-by-state basis, polling from CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac showed that Obama was above 50 percent in Wisconsin and Virginia, but 48 percent in Colorado.
Republicans have been lashing out at the Romney camp since a Politico story over the weekend laid bare philosophical differences in the campaign. With the release of the video Tuesday of Romney telling wealthy donors his job as president isn’t to care about roughly 47 percent of Americans, it fueled the fire for conservatives of Romney’s campaign being inept.
Conservative commentator Peggy Noonan said Romney doesn’t understand the electorate ahead of the November election, “So: Romney’s theory of the case is all wrong. His understanding of the political topography is wrong.”
Noonan also wrote, “I think there is a broad and growing feeling now, among Republicans, that this thing is slipping out of Romney’s hand.”
Fellow conservative columnist Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard tore into Romney’s campaign and half-heartedly suggested Romney should step down as nominee.
“It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!),” Kristol wrote. “But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Romney’s comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are arrogant and stupid.”
Kristol was referring to Obama’s comments in 2008 that some people clinged to their guns and religion.
Kristol continued, “Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page took an even more direct attack: “Surely a man as smart as the former CEO of Bain Capital can give a better speech on taxes and dependency than he delivered at that fundraiser. If he can’t, he’ll lose, and he’ll deserve to.”
Part of the reason conservatives have gotten up in arms about Romney’s comments is that many of the programs that help lower the tax burden on the alleged 47 percent are plans that have been drafted and put into law by Republican administrations, such as the child-tax credit expanded under the Bush administration.
Democrats also point out that while many may not pay income taxes, they still face Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, along with state taxes and local sales taxes. Plus, the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan policy analyst wing of Congress, issued a report that found tax cuts for the wealthy contributed nothing to economic growth.
Republican Senatorial candidates Dean Heller, Scott Brown, and Linda McMahon have also distanced themselves from Romney’s comments saying they don’t represent what they believe.
Still, Romney is not completely out of the race due to the economy, but even in that area he is ceding ground to Obama in recent polling.
Romney needs a game-changing event in the next 47 days before the election. Obama and Romney are both spending time in South Florida this week and are hitting Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Nevada hard over the coming weeks.
In just two weeks, both candidates are set to take the stage in their first of three nationally televised debates. But, recent statistical research has found that no campaign has experienced a big enough polling bump to overtake a candidate due to their debate performance.
That’s not to say it couldn’t happen this year, but history is not on the Romney campaign’s side.
For his part, Romney has defended his comments and is standing by them. But with Obama starting to near or eclipse the magic 50 percent mark, what Romney’s strategy is over the next month and a half will decide the election.
The distractions over the past two weeks for Romney’s campaign can’t continue through the debates, according to conservative and liberal pollsters. Romney’s campaign has to refocus the campaign if it has any hopes of capturing the remaining five percent of likely voters who could still change their mind.
Obama simply has to step back and continue to let Romney make gaffes and strike when the iron is hot. But, he can’t sit idly by, because what will truly win him the election is voter turnout. If it’s high and his ground game works in swing states, he’ll likely win. But if not, the door is wide open for Romney to walk through.