Is “Even Jimmy Carter” Even a Good Insult?

Apropos of Romney’s “even Jimmy Carter” remark, from a January 2011 CNN poll:

From what you have heard, read or  remember about some of our past presidents, please tell me if you  approve or disapprove of the way each of the following handled their  job as president: Jimmy Carter?”

Carter’s approval rating wasn’t all that low: 53% of respondents approved, 39% disapproved, and 7% didn’t know.

Here is the breakdown by party: Dems – 74%, independents – 56% (vs. 35% disapprove), and Republicans – 28%.

This doesn’t strike me, on its face, as evidence that Carter is some powerfully resonant negative symbol.  He’s viewed favorably even by the majority of independents.  If this “message”—I use quotes because Romney’s remark sounded off-the-cuff and not like some pre-planned talking point—is going to resonate with anyone, it will mostly be Republicans, 90% of whom already plan to vote for Romney anyway.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University.