Growing voter confidence in economy lifts Obama
The Washington Post poll of registered voters in three battleground states found Obama far ahead of Romney on the question of ‘‘who better understands the economic problems’’ of Americans. Obama bested his Republican challenger by 53 percent to 39 percent in Florida, 54 percent to 37 percent in Virginia, and 57 percent to 34 percent in Ohio.
Strategists say Romney’s ‘‘47 percent’’ remarks — secretly recorded at a May fundraiser and released this month — have wounded him at a crucial point in the campaign.
‘‘In one moment there was this crystallization for a lot of people about how he viewed them,’’ said Jim Margolis, a top ad-maker for Obama.
Numerous Democrats say Romney blundered by airing few TV ads during the two weeks of the parties’ back-to-back nominating conventions, which bracketed Labor Day. It gave Obama’s team free range to depict Romney as a tone-deaf mogul, just when many voters were starting to pay attention, these Democrats say.
Romney’s latest efforts to show a more compassionate side are getting mixed reviews. He told NBC on Wednesday, ‘‘don't’ forget, I got everyone in my state insured’’ when he overhauled Massachusetts’ health care system. The comment seemed at odds with Romney’s repeated vows to repeal ‘‘Obamacare,’’ whose central feature is mandated health coverage for everyone.
— Election seen as a choice, not a referendum.
Starting last year, Obama’s campaign did all it could to frame the election as a choice between two candidates with sharply different visions, and not as a referendum on the president’s problematic economic record.
Romney’s team took the opposite tack. It worked to couch the election as a verdict on high unemployment and economic anxiety on Obama’s watch.
The theory that Obama would sink from his own weight now seems questionable, and Romney has adopted Obama’s terminology.
‘‘This election, in my opinion, comes down to a very dramatic choice between two different courses for America,’’ Romney said Wednesday in Westerville, Ohio.
Matt Bennett, a veteran of Democratic campaigns, says Obama’s recent rise in the polls ‘‘is the result of the race changing from a referendum on the incumbent to a real choice between two candidates.’’
‘‘Now that voters are taking a harder look at their two choices,’’ Bennett said, ‘‘they simply do not like what they see from Romney.’’
Interviews with voters in key states suggest that Romney still has time to gain ground, if he can convince Americans he will do a better job than Obama.
‘‘I lost my home during his administration,’’ said Thomas Lenner, a commercial real estate broker from Las Vegas who voted for Obama in 2008, and won’t do so again. ‘‘Obviously, he’s not the man for the job,’’ said Lenner, 57. He said Obama could have done more to limit foreclosures.
Lenner adds, however, ‘‘I don’t think Romney is the answer, to be honest with you. I don’t think all the actions he’s going to take are going to help all the American people.’’
Greg Sayabalian, 47, is another struggling Nevadan who has given up on Obama, but is not sold on Romney. He co-owns Hamdog’s Restaurant in Gardnerville, a popular spot for construction workers until the 2008 recession hit.
‘‘Overnight, they just stopped coming in,’’ Sayabalian said. ‘‘My take-home pay is $595 every two weeks. My waitresses make more than I do.’’
Sayabalian said he’s probably leaning toward Romney, but he hasn’t ruled out Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Some Republicans have urged Romney to woo such wavering voters by offering more details about how he would cut tax rates without reducing the government’s revenue, and how he would start balancing the budget while hiking military spending. Obama has begun taunting Romney for the relative lack of details in his proposals.
‘‘No matter how many times they try to tell you they’re going to start talking specifics real soon, they don’t do it,’’ Obama told supporters last week in Kent, Ohio. ‘‘The reason is because the math doesn’t work.’’
It was the jibe of a confident-sounding incumbent, buoyed by encouraging polls in nearly every toss-up state. Romney has five weeks, and three big debates, to try to knock the swagger out of Obama.
Associated Press writers Sandra Chereb and Ken Ritter in Nevada; Daniel Sewell, Amanda Lee Myers and Thomas J. Sheeran in Ohio, and Todd Richmond in Wisconsin contributed to this report. Beaumont reported from Iowa.