Republicans have often spun Mitt Romney’s inability to fully shake Rick Santorum as not unlike the classic 2008 Democratic primary process that ended up with President Obama the victor.
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus has maintained that the elongated primary process is good for his side. In a March interview, Priebus offered a defense of the race, directly citing headlines from 2008 reports on the Democratic primary and concluding that it only helped the Dems in the end, resulting in President Obama’s election. On Thursday morning, Priebus doubled down in response to a CNN interviewer’s question on the effects of fellow Republicans attacking likely nominee Mitt Romney, “Obama withstood the attacks of Hillary Clinton.”
Except the personal ratings of then-Sen. Obama in 2008 and Romney’s in 2012 are going in much different directions.
Since the first votes were cast in the Republican primary process, Romney has seen his favorability ratings drop, culminating in last week’s polling from ABC News and the Washington Post which showed his positive rating at 34 percent, “the lowest for any leading presidential candidate in ABC/Post polls in primary seasons since 1984.” On the flip side, Nate Silver of the New York Times did the math on Obama’s numbers from the last presidential campaign:
In 2008, for instance, Mr. Obama’s favorability rating averaged 57 percent and his unfavorability rating 31 percent, according to an average of surveys in the PollingReport.com database in the month after the New Hampshire primary. The ratings for Mr. Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, were similar, averaging 54 percent favorable and 31 percent unfavorable.
“What’s most remarkable about the decline in Mitt Romney’s numbers over the last six month is that it’s been with Democrats, Republicans, and independents,” pollster Tom Jensen told TPM in an email, whose firm, Public Policy Polling (D) has been consistently surveying the GOP primary contests. “Romney’s gaffes from being in the spotlight and the steps he’s been forced to take to the right to wrap this thing up have hurt his image across the party spectrum.”
There is certainly plenty of time to make a move, and Romney’s campaign will have no problem finding the resources to improve his brand after the primary finally comes to an end, strategists often point out. But by the current numbers, it looks like the primary has had the opposite effect.
“I still think Romney’s going to get a 3-4 point bounce once the party unifies around him, and that it will probably be a lasting bump, but he needs more than that to get him back into the lead in states like Ohio and Virginia that he absolutely has to win,” Jensen wrote. “There’s no way Romney will get routed as badly as the polls right now suggest, but his chances at the White House have definitely been damaged by this process.”
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.