Obama loses election lead over economy

Voters have hardened their views about the economy and now decisively reject Obama’s economic record and say they see no reason for it to get better in a second term. Instead, they conclude that the president doesn’t know how to turn the economy around, has limited business or economic experience and is “in over his head.” Obama’s attacks on Romney and his charge that the Republican would only help the rich have failed to blunt Romney’s strength on the economic issue.

While voters agree, by 48-35, that “Romney would do a good job of fixing the economy and creating jobs,” they reject, by 40-49, the central Obama charge against Romney that the Republican “only cares about the rich and does not look out for the average person.” The 40 percent who agree with this statement — the summation of Obama’s negative campaign — amount to little more than the party’s base loyalists.

But, while his negatives aren’t working, Obama faces daunting challenges over the economy. By 50-35, voters agree that “President Obama’s economic policies have largely failed” and by 53-35, voters agree that “if Obama is reelected, there is no reason to believe he will be more successful with the economy than he has been to date.”

Indeed, voters have concluded that Obama doesn’t know how to fix the economy. By 48-41, they say that he is “in over his head and doesn’t know how to improve the economy.”

While voters agree with Obama that taxes on the rich should be increased and that Romney won’t do it (by 48-33), they believe that “taxing rich people more is just a symbolic step. The actual revenues are very small” by a margin of 47-30. In fact, by 52-29, they agree that “taxing anybody, rich or middle-class, right now will hurt the economy.”

Obama doesn’t have much to show for the months and millions he has spent attacking Romney. My polling suggests that his negatives have not scored except with the Democratic base.

 None of his attacks over Bain Capital, for instance, attracts agreement from more than the 40 percent of the vote that is Obama’s Democratic base.

Forty percent (the Obama base) agree that “at Bain Capital, Romney was ruthless in laying off workers, cutting their benefits and making big profits in the process.” But 48 percent see it differently and believe that “at Bain Capital, Romney took a large number of failing companies and turned them around, creating thousands of jobs in the process. Companies like Staples and Toys‘R’Us.”

Obama gets more traction on his attacks on Romney’s personal income taxes. While only 23 percent believe Mitt cheats on his taxes, 57 percent agree that while “he may not cheat, he pays very little in taxes on a huge income.” And 47 percent agree that Romney “has offshore bank accounts to hide his money from taxes.”

But these negatives seem to make little difference in how people vote since the conviction is so widespread — well over 50 percent — that Romney would be materially better at fixing the economy and creating jobs.

The Democratic theme of pounding on Romney over class-warfare and tax issues is just not working and is overshadowed by voter concerns over Obama’s ability to handle the economy. 

Note: These poll numbers are from a survey of 500 likely voters that I conducted on Thursday, Aug. 23.

Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, is the author of 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan and Outrage, Fleeced and Catastrophe. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email or to order a signed, advanced copy of his latest book Revolt!, go to dickmorris.com.