(NEW YORK) — Mitt Romney heads into his nominating convention with a solid shot at the presidency but substantial challenges en route — including broad perceptions among a downturn-battered public that, if elected, he’d favor wealthy Americans over the middle class.
That view complicates Romney’s job winning over the economically distressed white voters among whom his fortunes may depend. It’s also expressed in his persistent weakness in personal popularity overall, as well as his shortfall against President Obama in views he understands the economic problems ordinary Americans are having.
Registered voters by a substantial 58-32 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll think Romney would do more to favor the wealthy than the middle class — the opposite of views on Obama’s priority. Obama has a slight 7-point edge in better understanding the public’s economic straits, and another wide lead — 61-27 percent — as seeming more friendly and likeable.
As he seeks to address those weaknesses, Romney grasps his party’s presidential nomination with pushback on at least two fronts: Better alignment with public preferences for more limited government, and steady dissatisfaction with Obama’s economic performance. Fifty-six percent of registered voters disapprove of Obama’s work on the economy; largely as a result, fewer than half — 47 percent — approve of his job performance overall.
These competing sentiments boil down to essentially a dead heat in vote preferences. Among registered voters in this national survey, 47 percent support Romney, while 46 percent favor Obama, a split well within the margin of sampling error.
It’s the seventh time in 14 ABC/Post surveys this cycle that Romney’s held a scant (even 1-point) numerical edge. That marks his continued opportunity, but also his difficulties taking full advantage of Obama’s weaknesses, particularly on the still-struggling economy. Eighty-five percent of registered voters say it’s in bad shape, and, in a related result, seven in 10 say the country’s seriously off on the wrong track — two highly hazardous numbers for incumbents.
Indeed, Obama’s support has slipped numerically in each of the last four ABC/Post polls — from 51 percent in April to 46 percent now — as economic sentiment has worsened amid persistent unemployment and a resumption in rising gasoline prices.
Romney, crucially, has a slight, seven-point lead among registered voters in trust to handle the economy, 50-43 percent. And he benefits from the fact that 58 percent say they’re not confident the economy would improve under a second Obama term. But 52 percent aren’t confident it would improve under Romney, either — suggesting that beyond criticizing Obama’s economic performance, Romney could benefit by sharpening his argument that he’d do better.
Among other results, this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a weak reception for Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential running mate — 54 percent of registered voters approve of the choice, somewhat lower than the customary levels in past elections. Still, that rises to 85 percent of “very” conservative registered voters.
Overall, though, two-thirds of registered voters say Ryan’s selection will make no difference in their vote, while the rest divide essentially evenly on whether it makes them more or less likely to back the GOP ticket. And there is a risk: Registered voters by a broad 62-33 percent oppose Ryan’s proposal to restructure Medicare. To date that does not look to have impacted trust to handle the issue, about an even division between Obama and Romney. That’s in fact a plus for Romney, given the traditional Democratic advantage on Medicare. The question is how it plays out in the campaign ahead.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN