Mitt Romney’s got a problem.
Purple Strategies released their “Purple Poll” on Thursday, data from twelve swing states the showed former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) in a better position to beat President Obama than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. It wasn’t by much — overall, Santorum was down two against the President versus a four point Obama advantage on Romney. But for the former governor, who has collected the most delegates, endorsements and cash so far, it’s not great.
But even less great: Romney’s favorability numbers are lower - much lower - than any other frontrunner candidate of either party at this point in the race in recent presidential elections.
“His favorable ratings are just atrocious,” Doug Usher, a managing partner at Purple Strategies and a veteran of the Kerry Campaign and other Democratic efforts said. “You can’t be sitting on 27 percent favorability in the general,” the level Romney is at in their new numbers.
“The best thing that Mitt Romney could do is actually run a campaign that said something,” Bruce Haynes, one of the founding partners of Purples Strategies and a veteran of GOP campaigns, told TPM. “It’s a Seinfeld campaign. It’s a campaign about nothing. It was good for nine years of TV. But Mitt Romney is going to to have to deliver a commitment and a promise to voters. If he is delivering one, it’s not breaking through.”
The problem, as they see it, is that Romney’s chief attribute — electability — is becoming less convincing as the primary process goes on. “Since September, we have tested President Obama against Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum,” they wrote in their analysis of the numbers. “Of all of these candidates, Rick Santorum is the only one to outperform Romney (albeit by a small margin) against President Obama in Purple America. Additionally, among independents, Romney trails by 3 points, while Santorum leads President Obama by 2 points (44% to 42%).”
Usher and Haynes also pointed to Romney’s position within the general electorate as a candidate in February as being historically low. None of which makes it completely impossible he could win in November, and Romney will have the resources to make a fix as election day approaches. But the primary process has dragged him down, mainly because he entered the fray as a the frontrunner and has had a target on his back.
Check out the data below, a combined look at how leading contenders for their party’s nomination were viewed by general election voters in February of the election year.
So what’s the prescription for a Romney rebound? Haynes says it may lie in what’s best about the candidate himself.
“One word I don’t hear out of his campaign is the word turnaround,” Haynes told TPM. “That’s been the very thing that he’s done over his career better than anyone else. In business, with the Olympics. Not just the tactical stuff, but to make people believe again.”
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.