President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney are currently working to sharpen the contrasts of their respective personalities, highlighting the differences among their fundamental beliefs and political styles. Romney attacked Obama over the economy on Tuesday, criticizing the president for lighting a "prairie fire of debt." Vice President Joe Biden called attention to what he called "Romney economics" yesterday, accusing the conservative candidate of wanting to help his rich buddies at the expense of working Americans.
Differences noted, the politicians do share at least one common thread, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll released yesterday: Neither can claim majority support for their major platform goals.
Take Romney's proposal to lower individual income tax rates by 20 percent. This populist plan scored only 48 percent favorability, compared with 39 percent unfavorability. (Could it be because Romney's easy promise of tax reduction flies in the face of his party's clear goal of deficit reduction? "It's just not doable under any conceivable, realistic scenario," says Martin Sullivan, contributing editor at Virginia's Tax Analysts.)
We're not going to shift the burden from middle-income people to higher-income people," Romney said in an April interview, drawing a distinction with Obama, who has campaigned on economic "fairness" by saying the rich should pay their "fair share." Yet taxpayers seem unconvinced.
Then there's Obama's health care reform law, but the fierce Republican opposition to it may be cleared up on its own in June if the Supreme Court finds its individual mandate unconstitutional. Regardless, according to the ABC-WaPo poll, support for political repeal of the law is even: Forty percent favor such action, and 40 percent oppose.
Interestingly, independents seem conflicted on the issue. Of these middle-ground voters, just 33 percent are in favor of Romney's promise to repeal and replace, while 47 percent rate it unfavorably.
A poll from last week showed Obama lagging below 50 percent on a bunch of his priorities: the auto bailout, financial regulation and stimulus spending. Still more polls have shown the Obama lead narrowing, or Romney overtaking him, as the bruising Republican primary fades from memory.
Ad buys tell the story of what's to come. The Obama team revealed a $25 million push in battleground states last week; as if in response, conservative group Crossroads GPS announced a $25 million buy of their own.
There are those who claim to know which candidate will win; they're wrong, they don't know a thing. Barring any surprises, the next president of the United States of America may well be decided by a
multimillion-dollar barrage of negative ads.
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