Snapshot of Romney’s Problem

Team Romney is walking tall today after Rick Santorum’s withdrawal from the presidential race. But a new Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado, high on everyone’s “battleground state” list, shows the problem Romney faces going forward in dealing with intraparty and general election challenges.

Colorado was one of several swing and even traditionally red states that
President Obama flipped in 2008—and if his re-election bid were decided today, there
would be no looking back. He would actually defeat likely Republican nominee Mitt
Romney by an even larger margin than he did John McCain four years ago. McCain lost
by nine points in the Centennial State, and Romney trails by 13 in PPP’s latest poll.

Obama’s 53-40 lead over Romney here is up 11 points from only a two-point edge when PPP last polled the state only four months ago.

The story in Colorado is the same as everywhere: the president has seen his popularity rise in the last few months, while the dragging GOP primary contest has sunk their
candidates’ personal numbers. Romney’s favorability rating is still the best of the
Republicans’ except Paul’s, but he sits at 31% favorable and 60% unfavorable, down
from 35-53 in the previous poll. Meanwhile, 50% approve and 47% disapprove of
Obama’s job performance, up eight points on the margin from early December (45-50).

Looking at the crosstabs makes it clear Romney can’t just spend the next few months tending to the tender feelings of party conservatives who supported one of his rivals (Rick Santorum beat him in the CO caucuses in February). Romney’s approval/disapproval ratio among self-identified “very conservative” voters is 45/35, which shows significant room for likely improvement as the general election gets nearer. But his 31/61 ratio among self-identified moderates is a bigger problem that won’t just solve itself. Meanwhile, any efforts to deal with the former group of voters could make it harder to appeal to the other.

Similarly, PPP shows Romney with a mediocre 56/36 favorable/unfavorable ratio among Republicans. That will improve. But he’s at 25/65 among independents, which is, in a word, disastrous.

Mitt’s got his work cut out for him. And he’s not the sort of guy who’s going to make up ground on the sheer force of his personality.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.