Less than 48 hours after Mitt Romney tapped Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate, Americans are on a steep learning curve about what pundits unanimously call a “bold” choice.
Public opinion polls unwind before our very eyes.
The most recent CNN/ORC International poll, taken a few days before Saturday’s announcement, gives Mr. Ryan a 27-19 favorable/unfavorable rating with a whopping 54 percent saying they’re unsure or have never heard of him. That’s in line with earlier polls by CNN/ORC, Bloomberg/Selzer, and NBC/WSJ.
One online poll being conducted right now asks, “Do you think Paul Ryan was the right running mate choice for Mitt Romney?” Of 1,340 votes cast so far, 46 percent agree, 44 percent disagree, and 10 percent aren’t sure.
Unless you’re a partisan player, a pundit, or an amateur political junkie, in other words, Ryan remains largely an unknown quantity, a blank slate on whom both parties seek to portray their particular image – and probably will remain so until the Republican convention in Tampa at the end of the month, which is when most Americans begin tuning in to the campaign.
But for Mr. Romney and President Obama – both much more well-known – recent polls are more definitive. And while things could change dramatically between now and election day, the trend at the moment is not particularly encouraging for Romney.
A Fox News poll has Obama ahead by nine points (49-40 percent). Reuters/Ipsos and CNN/ORC give Obama a seven-point lead – 49-42 percent and 52-45 percent respectively.
“A bumpy overseas trip and a month of pummeling by Democratic ads depicting Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat and possible tax evader appear to have taken a toll,” the Washington Post reports. “The surveys of registered voters, all conducted sometime between Aug. 2 and 8, also have Romney’s unfavorable ratings headed north. Two of the polls show his support among independents slipping.”
This snapshot of independent opinion may be the most important point here for Romney. A plurality of voters register as independents.
“Among independent voters, the poll indicates President Obama has a 53-42 percent lead,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland told CNN.com. “The president holds a nine point advantage among women voters and a smaller six point edge among men.”
Romney can take heart from two other polls.
Gallup’s daily tracking poll of registered voters shows a dead heat – both candidates with 46 percent. Gallup also shows more 2008 voters switching to Romney than are switching to Obama, plus a voter “enthusiasm gap” that clearly favors Romney and the Republican Party.
In addition, recent Quinnipiac University polling shows Romney leading by about 5 points in two key swing states – Colorado and Virginia. Obama continues to lead by about that margin in another key state – Wisconsin – although that could change with Wisconsin Congressman Ryan now on the ticket.
Still, the latest Monitor/TIPP poll shows a widening lead for Obama.
A survey of 828 registered voters has Obama ahead 46-39 percent. A month earlier, the Monitor/TIPP poll showed them virtually even.
Within the most recent numbers there are some interesting demographic highlights.
Romney has lost his advantage among men (who now favor Obama 47-41 percent), and he’s seen his standing among independents go from a three-point advantage to a five-point deficit. Similarly, Romney has lost his advantage among suburban voters.
“In order to take back the lost ground, Romney must clearly articulate his economic policies and define his ticket,” says Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which conducted the poll.
By picking House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has taken a big step toward articulating his economic policies and defining his ticket.