A unique lack of popularity

A unique lack of popularity
A unique lack of popularity

Rachel noted last night that the Romney campaign, to the exasperation of many Republicans, has kept a pretty low profile lately, preferring private fundraisers to swing-state events. This morning, however, Politico reports that’s going to change: Team Romney’s new “rescue plan” includes showing more of the candidate, “in ads, speeches and campaign appearances.”

To be sure, that would be a change of pace. But the downside to the strategy is that voters just don’t seem to like Romney very much, and giving him more of a spotlight may prove counter-productive.

A new, national Pew Research Center poll, released yesterday, offers all kinds of bad news for the Republican campaign. For example, President Obama now leads Romney by eight points, 51% to 43%, among likely voters. It’s the biggest lead any candidate has had at this stage in the race since 1996.

But it’s that chart that amazes me. Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating is still underwater – and it may be worse now, given that the “47 percent” controversy erupted after the poll was conducted – which is very rare for a national candidate this close to the election.

From the Pew report: “A review of Pew Research Center and Gallup favorability ratings from September finds that Romney is the only presidential candidate over the past seven election cycles to be viewed more unfavorably than favorably.”

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.

As we discussed in August, 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 just don’t like what they see.

I don’t think this means Romney’s finished. 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 him makes his task inherently more difficult.

I’m not sure how the Republican campaign turns this around, but I suspect it will have something to do with trying to drag Obama down, not building Romney up.