Polls: Voters not sure yet

Despite the battering President Obama has endured in recent weeks, brand-new polls reflect an increasingly volatile electorate and campaign and show that neither Mitt Romney nor Obama will ever be able to take comfort in a lead.

Bad news has followed the incumbent around like a loyal dog of late. Coming off a Democratic defeat in the recall election in Wisconsin on June 5, Obama faces an organized and energized GOP set to lift Romney’s prospects in a state Obama won by 14 points in 2008. The May jobs report was dismal, and a growing majority of voters disapprove of the way Obama has handled the ailing economy. Romney outraised Obama in May and will enjoy a considerable monetary advantage from outside conservative groups poised to break new records (in terms of both dollars and influence) in the 2012 race. The investigation into the Department of Justice’s Fast and Furious gun-running operation has now led to a vote scheduled by the House of Representatives to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Then there is a eurozone on life support.

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But a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows the race still a dead heat, as it was in May, with Obama leading Romney 47 to 44 percent, within the margin of error. The survey also has Obama up 50-42 over Romney among swing-state voters living in Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, Iowa, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. Romney’s negatives have risen in those states, moving from 34/38 percent favorable/unfavorable in last month’s survey to 30/41 in swing states. His disapproval also rose nationally. A new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama ahead of Romney in the critical battlegrounds of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, losing some ground in Pennsylvania since May while gaining ground in Ohio in Florida in the last month, though he is also within the margin of error against Romney there.

Meanwhile, the overall map, while still providing Obama more paths to 270 electoral votes, continues to fluctuate. Democrats privately concede North Carolina, where they will hold their convention in September, is a lost cause for Obama. And Romney is hopeful that he can now flip a blue state Obama won in 2008 — namely, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Minnesota. Yet while Romney runs on the bad economy, Obama intends to make immigration an issue in battleground states like Virginia, Nevada and Colorado and this week the Supreme Court made it much easier. Arizona could now be in play for Obama as well. Not only is the high court’s ruling on Arizona’s S.B. 1070 likely to galvanize Latino voters nationally, but in Arizona the law has already spiked new Latino voter registration by more than 300 percent in some precincts. Romney dodged a real response to the Supreme Court ruling — after calling the law a “model for the nation” during the GOP primary — and instead blamed Obama for failing to keep his promise to enact immigration reform in his first term. 

Further silence, evasive answers and a refusal to side against the ruling will likely cost him considerably in the swing states with high Latino populations that could decide the election.

What polls show is that voters are disappointed in Obama but they aren’t too sure about Romney either. As a result, persuadable voters are likely to decide late. We can expect additional swings in the polls and mistakes to be made on both sides. Obama can expect a worsening picture in Europe and possibly another bad jobs report next week. Romney can expect more questions on just what his immigration policy is by a newly engaged Latino electorate.

So far, voters don’t like their choices. So things will likely look different in late July, and then again in October.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.



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