After a week in which he was continuously pummeled by a barrage of attack ads for his role in Bain Capital and for not disclosing his tax returns, Mitt Romney could smile with the release of the CBS New York Times poll that shows him for the first time ahead of Barack Obama - in that poll.
He could even take solace from a Fox News poll that showed Obama ahead, although both polls still represent a statistical tie between the 2 candidates.
What the two public opinion surveys have in common is the finding that Obama's negative ratings on the economy are perhaps irreperable. Another worrying sign for Obama is that while both candidates suffer from a deficit in terms of favorable versus unfavorable appraisals, Obama's deficit is now larger. Up to now, Barack Obama's likability has helped compensate for his unpopularity in handling the economy.
The pessimistic prediction by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, together with the spike in unemployment claims, have - according to the Times poll - aggravated Obama's problems with the economy. If in April the gap between those approving his handling of the economy and those disapproving was a manageable 44 to 48%, it is now a yawning 39% to 55%.
On the campaign trail, Obama committed an unforced error by essentially claiming that no one really achieves success in business all by himself without benefitting, in one form or another, from government assistance.
It took the Romney campaign a few days before it realized Barack Obama's generosity, but then it exploited the error with a vengeance. Romney made Obama's remarks the centerpiece of his stump speeches and a very effective advertisement ran in New Hampshire that elicited tremendous enthusiasm on Republican and conservative websites. The ad showed the owner of a very successful family business who had mortgaged his home to invest in the business, taking issue with Obama.
The Republicans also took advantage of the fact that Obama, in the past half-year, did not meet with his Jobs Council. Romney exploited this bit of information in barnstorming for Ohio and Pennsylvania (the latter state was considered solidly in Obama's column but now there is speculation that Romney has a chance of flipping it).
You know what he’s been doing over the last six months? In the last six months, he has held 100 fundraisers. And guess how many meetings he’s had with his Jobs Council? None. Zero. Zero, in the last six months. So it makes it very clear where his priorities are. His priority is not creating jobs for you, his priority is trying to keep his own job and that's why he's going to lose it.”