Damaged goods? New NBC/WSJ poll shows the primary season has taken a toll on GOP and its candidates… Romney’s image -- right now -- is worse than McCain’s, Kerry’s, and Dole’s at this point in the race… But he’s also in a stronger position of capturing the GOP nomination… Also in the poll: Obama’s political standing has improved… Wrapping Obama’s day yesterday at AIPAC… And it’s one day until Super Tuesday.
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Campaign signs for Republican presidential candidates former Senator Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney line a road in Bedford, New Hampshire.
*** Damaged goods? If you're a Republican reading our latest NBC/WSJ poll, there’s one immediate conclusion: This Republican nominating season, which holds 11 Super Tuesday contests tomorrow, needs to come to an end -- ASAP. And that’s probably why more members of the GOP establishment, including Eric Cantor and Tom Coburn, are endorsing front-runner Mitt Romney. According to the survey, the combative and highly scrutinized primary season has taken a toll on the party and its presidential candidates, especially Romney. Four in 10 of all adults say the Republican nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the GOP, versus just 12% with a more favorable opinion. Additionally, asked to describe the nominating battle in a word or phrase, 69% of respondents (including 63% of independents and even 56% of Republicans) answered with a negative comment. Some of the examples from Republicans: “Unenthusiastic,” “discouraged,” “lesser of two evils,” “painful,” and disappointed.” And 55% of respondents (including 35% of Republicans) believe the Democratic Party does a better job than the GOP of appealing to those who aren’t hard-core supporters.
A new NBC News-WSJ poll shows that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney appears to have made progress in garnering support ahead of the crucial GOP Super Tuesday primaries. NBC's Chuck Todd has all of the details.
*** A flashing red light for the GOP: It’s worth noting, of course, that this poll was conducted (Feb. 29-March 3) during the divisive GOP primary battle, the debate over contraception, and Rush Limbaugh’s comments about the Georgetown law student. If nothing else, these numbers show how bad these conversations have been for the GOP’s brand. And they serve as a flashing red light for a Republican Party that wants to win the White House, take over the Senate, and hold on to the House. About the only positive Republicans can take out of this survey is the timing: Perhaps as a nominee, Romney can change the conversation back to the economy – or at least away from the social issues which are having a damaging effect among key women swing voting groups.
*** Romney’s image -- right now -- is worse than McCain’s, Kerry’s, and Dole’s: The primary season has taken a toll on Romney, too. In January’s NBC/WSJ poll, Romney’s fav/unfav score stood at 31%/36% (and 22%/42% among indies), which as we noted then wasn’t good. But in this latest survey, it’s even worse, 28%/39% (and 22%/38% among indies). In fact, Romney’s image right now is worse than almost all other recent candidates who went on to win their party’s presidential nomination: Obama was 51%/28% and McCain was 47%/27%, per the March 2008 NBC/WSJ poll; Kerry was 42%/30% at this point in ’04; George W. Bush was 43%/32% in 2000; and Bob Dole was 35%/39%. The one exception: Bill Clinton, in April 1992, was 32%/43%. That means that if Romney becomes the GOP nominee, he has a LONG WAY to go to rehabilitate his image. Just see SNL’s opening skit over the weekend.
*** But he’s also in a stronger position of winning the GOP nomination: That’s the bad news for Romney. The good news, per the poll: He’s in a strong position to capturing his party’s presidential nomination. After his primary victories last week in Arizona and Michigan, he leads the national GOP horserace with support from 38% of Republican voters, his highest-ever mark in the poll. Romney’s followed by Santorum at 32% and Gingrich and Paul, who are tied at 13% each. In a race reduced to just two candidates, Romney leads Santorum by five points, 50%-45%. In particular, the former Massachusetts governor has boosted his standing with Tea Party supporters. What’s more, 72% of Republicans say they would be satisfied if Romney becomes the GOP nominee. Bottom line: Romney has never been in a stronger position among Republicans in our poll, but he’s also never been in a worse position among everyone else.
*** Obama’s improved political standing: While the nomination battle has damaged the GOP and Romney, it has only helped President Obama’s political standing. In the poll, his approval rating stands at 50%-45%, his highest mark in the NBC/WSJ survey since Osama bin Laden’s death. What’s more, he leads Romney by six points, 50%-44%, winning independents (46%-39%), women (55%-37%), suburban women (46%-44%), and those in the Midwest (52%-42%). Obama enjoys bigger leads over Paul (50%-42%), Santorum (53%-39%), and Gingrich (54%-37%). Bolstering Obama’s standing is increased optimism about the state of the U.S. economy: 40% believe the economy will improve during the next year, and 57% say the worst is behind us (versus 36% who say the worst is still ahead). Peter Hart, the Democratic half of our NBC/WSJ survey, sums up the current poll’s outlook on the 2012 race: If it were a cocktail, it would be “one part Obama, one part the economy, and three parts the Republican Party’s destruction.”
*** Obama at AIPAC: But that’s the situation now with EIGHT months to go until the general election. And there will challenges ahead for the president, including the situation with Iran. Here’s the New York Times’ take on Obama’s speech at AIPAC yesterday: “In a forceful address to the group, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Mr. Obama declared that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and would act — with military force, if necessary — to prevent that from happening. But he made it clear that he did not believe that a strike on Iran would serve the interests of either the United States or Israel. And he chided his Republican critics for, as he described it, putting politics ahead of American national security interests.” Obama meets with Israeli PM Netanyahu at 10:45 am ET. This won’t be the tense meeting the two had the last time Netanyahu. But it also won’t be a pure love-fest; the two men just don’t like each other THAT much. Call it a “like” fest. The both need each other for their own domestic political reasons, and Netanyahu also finds himself in the position of potentially realizing he has to deal with a President Obama for FIVE more years, rather than one (which may have helped embolden him last year). Still, don’t underestimate the concern the White House has on this issue; the fact the president whole-heartedly rejected the idea of an Iranian “containment” policy is a sign of his own concerns on this issue with domestic audiences.
*** Super Tuesday developments: Turning to tomorrow’s Super Tuesday contests, here’s a wrap of some of the latest developments: An NBC/Marist poll released over the weekend showed Santorum and Romney running neck and neck in Ohio among likely GOP primary voters, with Santorum at 34% and Romney at 32%. (The poll also had Romney leading big in Virginia over Paul, 69%-26%)… A new Quinnipiac poll of Ohio shows Romney with the momentum, as he leads Santorum 34%-31% (those numbers were essentially flipped, per the Q poll released late last week)… And a Mason-Dixon poll shows Gingrich leading in Georgia among likely voters with 38%, followed by Romney at 24%, and Santorum at 22%. A quick “just asking”: What took so long for Santorum to go after Romney on health care and the mandate? Did it really take a Democratic oppo-dump or reminder for him to do it? It seems Democrats are jumping on this USA TODAY op-ed as much as Santorum. Still, a reminder that Romney never has gone through a tough time on health care for a sustained period during this nomination fight.
The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd shares details from the latest NBC/WSJ poll and explains what may happen during Super Tuesday.
*** On the trail: Most of the action is in the Super Tuesday prize of Ohio: Romney stumps in Canton, Youngstown, and Zanesville… Santorum hits Miamisburg, Westerville, and Cuyahoga Falls… Meanwhile, Gingrich campaigns in Tennessee… And Paul is in Idaho.
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 1 day
Countdown to Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi primaries: 8 days
Countdown to Election Day: 246 days
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