Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll: Obama, Romney Locked in Tight Race for the Presidency

At the Wall Street Journal, "Obama, Romney Toe to Toe: Poll Finds Economy Hurts President, but Rival Has Concerns" (via Google):

Voters remain deeply pessimistic about the nation's future and uncertain of President Barack Obama's ability to set the economy on the right course, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that found Mr. Obama locked in a tight race with Mitt Romney.

The president tops the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, 47% to 43%, when Americans are asked their choice today for president, a lead little changed from last month and within the poll's margin of error.

But the poll found much to stir concern within the burgeoning Obama re-election campaign. Despite signs of economic recovery, nearly half of Americans said the country is at the start of a long-term decline. Americans by a sizable plurality said Mr. Obama's approach has worsened the nation's budget deficit and health-care problems, and increased its partisan divide.

After emerging last month as the all-but-certain Republican nominee, Mr. Romney is consolidating support among conservatives, the poll found, and much of the public is open to the idea that his business background would help him improve the economy.

His supporters express more enthusiasm about the election than do Mr. Obama's.

But the former Massachusetts governor faces his own challenges. He has yet to engender deep confidence in his economic policies, the core of his campaign pitch. Three-quarters of respondents said they were only somewhat confident or not confident at all that Mr. Romney had the right ideas to improve the economy. And nearly three in 10 said electing a Mormon president would cause them or their neighbors concern, including one-quarter of independents.

In all, the poll of 1,000 Americans found abundant signs of a hardening of opinion toward both Mr. Obama and his GOP rival as both camps and the new breed of independent "super" political action committees prepare to spend upward of $2 billion competing for a dwindling slice of undecided voters in a handful of states.

"Never before will so much money be spent by so many to persuade so few," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who directed the poll along with Republican Bill McInturff.

The poll found a striking symmetry in the pessimism Americans express about whether either candidate can nudge the country in the right direction.

Asked to weigh their faith in the men, around a third of respondents expressed confidence that Mr. Obama would bring the right kind of change, with a nearly equal share saying the same of Mr. Romney. But large majorities said the two would bring either no change or the wrong kind of change, reflecting a general lack of optimism about the election's outcome.

Based on the poll and other data, Mr. Hart put Mr. Obama's chances of re-election in November at "no better than 50/50."

Incumbents win, Mr. Hart said, "when voters are buoyant with the economic times." At this point, he said, Mr. Obama "is in the Twilight Zone—neither safe nor gone," while signs that the public sees an economic upturn "have yet to appear."
See also First Read, "NBC/WSJ poll: Obama, Romney locked in tight contest." (Via Memeorandum.)

And Allahpundit notes this about the poll's sample:
Last month’s WSJ poll had it 43D/39R/14I if you included leaners. The new poll: 44D/36R/16I. The spread between Democrats and Republicans has increased by four points since April — and yet O’s lead over Romney has shrunk by two points. Hmmmm.
Actually, most polls have oversampled Democrats and still found Obama to be struggling, especially on the economy. Indeed, WSJ's sweet spot is the electorate's favorable views of Romney's Bain experience, especially for improving the economy and handling the nation's debt.

That said, the bottom line for me is that as much as any election in recent history, the campaigns are going to matter enormously --- the messaging and the mobilization especially. And on both those counts the Democrats are not holding up too well.

Note William Jacobson's post from this morning, "For the first time in my adult life I believe Romney might beat Obama":
Why now?

Because Team Obama is proving itself to be too smart by half, and too incompetent by three-quarters.
And on mobilization, see Gerald Seib, "As in 2004, energizing the base a key to victory."

RELATED: The background on that video at top, from Politico, "Exclusive: RNC slams Obama campaign for Cory Booker 'cover-up'."