Today's Fox News poll shows Obama leading 48-43 lead over Mitt Romney, a net-six point improvement since their prior survey. Obama’s approval rating also reached 50% among likely voters, joining Rasmussen, Gallup, and CNN in showing a post-convention approval bounce for the president, much like George W. Bush experienced four years ago.
But Fox's topline results aren’t nearly as interesting as their underlying questions. Fox asked a number of questions about how voters feel about Obama's economic performance that dispute the underlying assumptions of the Romney campaign and get to the heart of Romney’s struggle to convert disappointment with the economy into a victory.
While Romney argues that Obama has failed on the economy, the Fox polls suggests that most voters don’t quite see it that way. Just 36 percent of voters give Obama a D or an F on the economy, compared to 38 percent of voters who give him an A or a B. There are a lot of voters with a decidedly mixed view, including 14 percent who give him a “C” and 11 percent who give him an “incomplete,” as the president did himself.
Depending on your perspective, “C” might be a passing grade or beneath expectations. “Incomplete” might either mean he “couldn’t get the job done” or he “needs more time.” But these numbers are inconsistent with the simple formulation that voters have judged Obama as a failure and are prepared to vote for an alternative. In fact, 50 percent of likely voters say that if Obama is elected, they would feel that “the country’s improving and I look forward to another 4 years" compared to 43 percent who would say “the country’s going down the drain and I’m dreading what is going to happen next.” While 49 percent of voters say the country is worse off than it was four years ago, that’s not enough to outweigh the other numbers.
Collectively, these figures are terrible news for the Romney campaign. They have always claimed that their path to victory depended on voters resolving to dismiss the president on the grounds that his economic performance is a resounding failure, but voters appear to be drawing a different conclusion. Perhaps Team Romney's failure to convince the public to reject the president explains why they’ve begun focusing on issues other than the economy.
The Fox poll also showed Obama performing as well as among likely voters as he is among registered voters. At this point, The Washington Post poll is beginning to look like the outlier, with CNN and Fox showing diminished enthusiasm gaps, Rasmussen and PPP showing Obama with an edge among likely voters, and Gallup showing an increasing share of non-white voters committing to vote.
Similarly, new polls from YouGov/Economist, Gallup, and Reuters were largely consistent with post-DNC polls, which combine to show Obama leading by 3.9 points, 48.7 to 44.8 percent for Romney.
The only surprising bit of movement comes from Rasmussen, which shows Obama slipping to 46 percent. However, Obama’s approval rating remains at 51 percent and Gallup still shows Obama holding strong, potentially suggesting that Obama’s post-convention bounce hasn’t diminished.
Odds and Ends
--NBC First Read reported that Team Obama has managed to outspend Team Romney in Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio, despite getting outspent nationally. Team Obama was able to stay above water in perhaps the election’s three most pivotal states by allowing Team Romney to air uncontested advertisements in states like Michigan and Minnesota, where GOP groups spent more than $10 million to no avail.
--Obama’s initial investment in Wisconsin is larger than Romney’s somewhat meager buy, which might suggest that the Romney campaign isn’t so serious about fighting here, after all.
--The Obama campaign has apparently decided to make a significant buy in Florida, including a potentially astounding 2700 GRP in Tampa and Orlando—although exactly how astounding depends on the time-frame for the buy. This is a smart tactical move on the part of the president's strategists. The polls show Obama tied or ahead in Florida, a very expensive state that's essentially a must win for Romney. And Romney already trails in Ohio, and potentially other critical states like Colorado or Virginia. But a big, expensive fight in Florida might prevent Romney from spending the amounts necessary to overcome his deficit in Ohio, or stay on the offensive in states that seem to tilt toward Obama, like Wisconsin or Nevada. So the Obama campaign's investment puts Romney in an extremely difficult spot: It could have the effect of either solidifying Florida as a toss-up that tilts Obama, or forcing Romney to spend heavily defending a must win state, protecting Obama's lead elsewhere.
--NBC First Read also reported that Team Romney is only outspending Team Obama by $1.3 million this week, $10.7 million to $9.4 million. Over most of August and July, Team Romney was outspending Team Obama by a 2:1 margin. The main reason for change is that Restore our Future and Americans for Prosperity are off the air. If they return, Team Romney might again amass a large spending advantage