With just over two months until Election Day, Barack Obama holds a narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the race for the presidency. The lead is shallow, however, and a careful look at the landscape reveals significant weaknesses for the president. The key question remains whether Romney can capitalize on them.
President Obama has enjoyed a lead over Romney in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls every day since October 2011. Yet the president is bedeviled by problems. For one thing, he remains locked at around 47 percent support; for the last quarter-century, this has been roughly the floor for Democratic presidential candidates, suggesting that all the president has done to date is consolidate the Democratic base.
Beyond that, Obama faces substantial roadblocks. His job approval rating has hovered between 47 and 48 percent for months. Given that incumbent presidents rarely win voters who disapprove of their performance in office, this is a red flag for the Democrats. Worse, support for the president among the critical bloc—independents—is anemic at best, clocking in at just 41 percent in the latest Gallup poll. Compounding the White House’s difficulties, Obama’s job approval on the top issues of the campaign is much lower than his overall approval rating; his marks on the economy and the deficit are quite weak, and a majority of the country still opposes Obamacare.
Yet the president enjoys a lead, even with all of these problems. What accounts for this? Part of the explanation is that summer polls usually survey registered voters, which tends to include more Democrats than actually show up to vote on Election Day. In the Rasmussen daily tracking poll of likely voters, Romney has been mostly in the lead since May.
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