While Mitt Romney may be consolidating his advantage over Rick Santorum — particularly in states like Pennsylvania — national polling suggests clearly and unambiguously that the former Massachusetts governor has very serious and sustained problems.
To be sure, a Franklin and Marshall College poll released Wednesday showed the former senator’s double-digit lead over Mitt Romney has dropped down to two points, but Mr. Romney is still facing a crisis in unfavorability.
Indeed, Mr. Romney’s most serious problem — one that The Wall Street Journal called attention to in early March — is that his negative rating exceeds his positive rating by double digits, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Feb. 29-March 3 (28 percent/39 percent).
And in the recently released nationwide ABC News/Washington Post poll a mere 34 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mr. Romney — a record low for any leading presidential candidate in a primary season in ABC/Post survey data since 1984, while half of voters (50 percent) say they have an unfavorable impression of him.
Indeed, in most elections that I have been involved with, candidates whose negative ratings are over 50 percent tend to lose, especially to incumbents like President Obama — who is seen favorably by a majority (53 percent) of voters surveyed in the ABC/Washington Post poll — reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s 56 percent favorability in June 1996.
But bluntly, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a presidential candidate to win an election with an overall negative rating of 50 percent when facing an incumbent whose favorability is above 50 percent.
Of course, should the election become a referendum on the deteriorating economy, or if there should be an exogenous event, such as a war in the Middle East, this might not necessarily prove to be the case.