From “It Shouldn’t Be This Close,” Charlie Cook, National Journal:
“Still, this race shouldn’t be as tight as it is. Whether one looks at polling measurements of whether voters think the country is headed in the right direction, at consumer confidence, or at key economic measurements such as growth in gross domestic product, deviations in the unemployment rate, or the change in real personal disposable income, it is puzzling, to say the least, why polls show President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck and neck. Incumbents generally don’t get reelected with numbers like we are seeing today.
“So why isn’t Romney doing better?
“First, Romney is a very bright guy but hardly a natural candidate. I suspect that the results of a Myers-Briggs personality test would not have suggested that he pursue politics as his vocation.
“Second, and compounding the first reason, is Romney’s campaign advertising. Until his campaign finally began airing biographical ads a few weeks ago, his election effort seemed to studiously avoid trying to establish any bond, any connection, or any level of trust between him and American voters. His campaign seemed to hold the view that any day or dollar spent focusing on anything other than the economy was a day or dollar wasted. Presidential races are not likability contests, but a candidate does need to be “likable enough,” to borrow Obama’s phrase. Voters need to feel comfortable with the person they back.
“The Romney campaign did not lay down a layer of positive ads at the outset to give voters some understanding of who its candidate is. So when the deluge of negative ads about Bain Capital, layoffs, outsourcing, income taxes, and foreign bank accounts came, Romney had no Teflon coating to protect him.
“Third is Romney’s decision to spurn an effort by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to find a middle ground for the Republican Party on the Dream Act that could well have cut at least a little into Obama’s 35-point lead among Latino voters.
“Finally, as much as conservatives are thrilled with Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, anything that takes the focus off the economy and Obama’s handling of it is not a good thing for the GOP ticket. A presidential campaign is the last place in the world to try to hold a serious and intelligent discussion about any substantive issue. Bringing Medicare, Social Security, and deep spending cuts into the conversation only distracts from the focus on the struggling economy and makes Romney’s path to victory that much more challenging.” Emphasis added.