By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Wisconsinites think Barack Obama is a stronger leader, more empathetic and generally more likable than his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, according to a Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday.
They also think the current president would do a better job than Romney on handling the economy, health care, foreign policy, taxes and the federal budget.
It’s little wonder, then, that the poll shows Obama leading Romney 53 percent to 42 percent among likely voters.
More Wisconsinites like Obama than dislike him — 56 percent to 41 percent.
But when asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Romney, 37 percent said “favorable,” and 53 percent said “unfavorable.”
“The need to reverse that number, of any candidate, is pretty significant,” said Charles Franklin, the poll’s director. “Governor Romney is suffering from … having the least net favorability rating, the lowest net favorability rating, of any presidential candidate since we’ve been keeping track of this in the early ’70s.”
The Marquette poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday. There were 1,003 respondents overall, including 894 likely voters. For likely voter questions, the margin of error was 3.3 percent. Otherwise, the error margin was 3.2 percent.
The poll results were announced at what many see as a potentially critical time in the presidential race – hours before the first debate, just a couple of days before the September jobs report is due to be released and just about a month before the Nov. 6 election.
Obama also is scheduled to campaign on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Thursday, marking his second visit to the state his mid-September.
“Obama wouldn’t be there (in Wisconsin) twice in a week and a half if he wasn’t worried about Wisconsin,” said Ryan Mahoney, regional spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
Mahoney said the Republican Party in Wisconsin has a stronger ground game than it did four years ago, thanks in large part to the June recall elections – a ground game he believes will help Romney win in November.
“I think when people go to the polls, they’re going to ask themselves, ‘Are they better off than they were four years ago?’ he said. “And you can’t make that argument for Barack Obama.”
Median income is down in the United States since Obama took office. Unemployment is below its peak three years ago, but it remains stagnant at a high 8 percent.
And while employers have been adding jobs over the past few months, they aren’t doing so at a fast enough pace to push unemployment down.
The good news for Romney in the Marquette poll?
Obama’s lead is down from the 14 percent it reached two weeks ago, a slump driven largely by independent voters.
“It’s still a nine-point Obama lead among independents,” however, Franklin said. “So, put that together, high party loyalty plus a margin among independents – even a tightening margin – and what we end up with is a tightening of the race, but with Obama still having the advantage.”
The independents’ swing in the U.S. Senate race has been more dramatic, with Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson now splitting the independents’ vote at 43 percent, as Thompson has stepped up his advertising over the past few weeks.
Two weeks ago, Baldwin had a 12-point lead among independents.
She also was leading in the race, overall, among likely voters, by 9 percent.
That lead has shrunk to a 48 percent to 44 percent edge.
Wisconsin Democrats believe their party can win next month by persuading those who voted in 2008 – when Obama and Democrats won big – but who didn’t vote in the 2010 Republican takeover, to come back to the polls this year.
“We are not seeing in our work here in our district … a significant number of undecideds,” said Allin Walker, chair of the Democratic Party of Door County. “We’re finding that the election is really about, Will people rekindle their belief, I suppose, in the president’s message? They feel a little let down by what’s happened in the last 3 1/2 years.”
Obama has a record of successes, Walker said, but that’s not what’s persuading voters.
“Certainly, at the visceral level, there’s a sense (over the past couple of months) of the president fighting for what he promised, and that seems to hearten people, that seems to be sticking with people,” Walker said. “They’re not in a, ‘Tell us the facts’ mood. They’re in an, ‘Inspire us’ mood. It’s been a tough four years.”
MARQUETTE POLL RESULTS
— Among likely voters in the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Tammy Baldwin is beating Republican Tommy Thompson 48 to 44 percent
— Among likely voters in the presidential race, 53 percent prefer the Democratic ticket, versus 42 percent who would vote for the Republicans
— On whether Obama or Romney “is someone who cares about people like me”: 61 percent said “yes” for Obama, while 37 percent said “yes” for Romney
— Fifty-six percent think Obama is a strong leader; 45 percent think Romney is a strong leader
— Respondents thought Obama would do a better job than Romney handling the economy (52 percent to 43 percent), handling health care (54 to 40 percent), handling foreign policy (55 to 40 percent), handling taxes (54 to 41 percent), and handling the federal budget (50 to 44 percent).
— A majority (51 percent for Obama, 69 percent for Romney) think the candidates need to provide more details about the policies they would pursue as president
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