President Obama's re-election prospects have improved over the last week, according to a string of new polls. The most recent swing-state survey from USA Today/Gallup fortifies last week's national CNN numbers showing the president building a statistically significant lead among women:
In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points. The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group. Republicans' traditional strength among men "won't be good enough if we're losing women by nine points or 10 points," says Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist and former political adviser to President George W. Bush. "The focus on contraception has not been a good one for us … and Republicans have unfairly taken on water on this issue."
A few weeks ago, a USA Today poll projected a small lead for the probable GOP challenger over the incumbent. Now that the tables have turned, the Obama campaign is crowing:
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina says Romney's promise to "end Planned Parenthood" — the former Massachusetts governor says he wants to eliminate federal funding for the group — and his endorsement of an amendment that would allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in health care plans have created "severe problems" for him in the general election.
As the story notes, Romney was talking about cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a mainstream position that many Republicans ran on successfully in 2010. The President of the United States does not have the power to simply "end" private organizations he doesn't care for -- which may come as a surprise to liberals, whose views on the "imperial presidency" have shifted remarkably since Obama took office. Messina is also dreaming if he thinks support for Sen. Blunt's conscience amendment is a liability for Romney. Several Democrats supported the measure, and Sen. Scott Brown has been actively running on his affirmative vote in bright blue Massachusetts. A New York Times/CBS News poll taken at the height of Democrats' "war on women" hysteria showed a large majority of Americans -- including most women -- favor a conscience-protecting opt-out for religious employers vis-a-vis HHS' new birth control edict. What likely has taken a toll is the deliberate misinformation campaign, accurately described by Peggy Noonan as "not wrongheaded, [but] dishonest," designed to leave the impression that Republicans favor banning birth control. Not a single Republican presidential candidate has advocated any such thing, including Rick Santorum. Unconstrained by facts, Democrats have hammered away at this message anyway, relying on a willfully pliant media to help turn the screws. Romney seems to recognize the need to forcefully push back against this false narrative:
"This president can’t run on his record. And so he’s going to try in every way he can to divert to some other kind of attack and try to have people disqualify our nominee, which will probably be me, and instead of talking about where we’ve been, and where we’re going as a nation. And I wish Ann were here, my wife were here, for a lot of reasons, I wish she were here. But I wish she were here to answer that question in particular. She says that she’s going across the country and talking with women, and what they’re talking about is the debt that we’re leaving the next generation and the failure of this economy to put people back to work. She says that she talks to women and they’re concerned about the jobs that their kids are going to get. And they wonder whether their future is going to be prosperous and bright, as have been ourlives. And that’s what they’re talking about. And the, my goodness, what the president has done, with regards to this issue on health care, he came in and said, look, under Obamacare, we’re going to tell the Catholic church that it has to violate its religious conscience…”
“We have work, we have work to do, to make sure we take our message to the women of America, so they understand how we’re going to get good jobs and we’re going to have a bright economic future for them and for their kids. And make sure that these distortions that the Democrats throw in are clarified and the truth is heard.”
Parting thoughts: (1) For those who may say these numbers are a clear indication that Romney can't win a general election, Obama's lead over Rick Santorum is larger than his advantage on Romney -- although Santorum's deficit among women is slightly smaller, whereas he trails overall among men, unlike the GOP front-runner. Odd. (2) A McClatchy/Marist national survey out last week pointed to a very close race, with Obama leading Romney within the margin of error. (3) As I warned when the polling data was looking far worse for Obama in February and March, the general election horse race will ebb and flow heading into the fall. Romney will likely get a boost when he finally wraps up the primary race, and both major party candidates tend to experience bounces coming off of their nominating conventions. The state of polling -- and the economy -- in early September and beyond will be much more determinative.
UPDATE - There's also this:
With Republicans locked in a contentious and expensive primary, President Barack Obama has spent a small fortune in recent months to build and maintain a campaign operation that is larger, more diverse and more focused on November’s general election than any of his opponents’ organizations ... His campaign has spent more than $135 million on operations through February, according to an Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission records. That’s about $3 million more than all his GOP challengers combined.