Guy Benson

Here's your obligatory follow-up to yesterday's post, thanks to USA Today and Gallup's new release of additional polling data.  Executive summary -- Romney leads on issues, Obama leads on personality:
 


The Republican holds double-digit leads on the economy and deficits, and is also preferred on taxes and job creation.  Obama does better on "characteristics," with the exception of the "can get things done" category.  So voters believe Romney is better equipped to handle the most important issues of the day, and think that he can execute, but they like Obama more and appreciate his "empathy."  This poll mirrors the NYT/CBS survey we analyzed last week on the economy question (Romney +8 in that poll), but parts ways on favorability.  The Times poll demonstrated a major drop off in Obama's favorability numbers, especially among independents.  Gallup continues to give The One a steady lead on that front.  Today's release also confirms yesterday's report that Romney's business experience is overwhelmingly seen as a plus, even as Team Obama continues to attack.  They might be holding Obama's likeability numbers down, but they're not denting his resume -- one of Romney's key selling points.  An overwhelming majority of Republicans, a supermajority of independents, and a third of Democrats say the former Massachusetts Governor's tenure at in the private sector would lead him to make good decisions in managing the US economy as president.  The only policy realm where Gallup measures an Obama edge is on foreign affairs, which has largely taken a back seat in the campaign.  Mitt Romney is seeking to change that, however, sharply criticizing Obama's record in a speech to the VFW this afternoon.  He paid extra attention to the Obama White House's repeated national security leaks, which have angered allies and jeopardized missions -- while coincidentally making Obama look good:
 

It is reported that Bob Gates, the President’s first secretary of defense, bluntly addressed another security problem within this administration.  After secret operational details of the bin Laden raid were given to reporters, Secretary Gates walked into the West Wing and told the Obama team to “shut up.”  He added a colorful word for emphasis. Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake.  But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action in Iran. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis.  And yesterday, Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.” This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field.  

And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence.  Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama's Attorney General, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House. Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished.  The time for stonewalling is over.  It is not enough to say the matter is being looked into, and leave it at that.  When the issue is the political use of highly sensitive national security information, it is unacceptable to say, “We’ll report our findings after Election Day.”  Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets?  Did a superior authorize it?  These are things that Americans are entitled to know – and they are entitled to know right now.  If the President believes – as he said last week – that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts.


After Romney quoted Feinstein's frank and frustrated comments verbatim, she quickly went into damage control mode and back-tracked to protect Obama.  Here are her original remarks:
 


The evidence is "very clear," she intoned.  But now the Romney campaign says she's been Bookered:
 

It looks like President Obama has given Dianne Feinstein the Cory Booker treatment. Yesterday she was speaking candidly about the leaks originating from this White House. Today, she was forced to walk it back. As Governor Romney said today, we need a leader who will take responsibility and immediately halt these security breaches before more American lives are put in danger.”


Romney also assailed Obama over scheduled defense cuts:
 

Today, we are just months away from an arbitrary, across-the-board budget reduction that would saddle the military with a trillion dollars in cuts, severely shrink our force structure, and impair our ability to meet and deter threats.  Don’t bother trying to find a serious military rationale behind any of this, unless that rationale is wishful thinking. Strategy is not driving President Obama’s massive defense cuts.  In fact, his own Secretary of Defense warned that these reductions would be “devastating.”  And he is right. That devastation starts at home. These cuts would only weaken an already stretched VA system and impair our solemn commitment that every veteran receives care second to none. I will not allow that to happen. This is not the time for the President’s radical cuts in the military. Look around the globe. Other major powers are rapidly adding to their military capabilities, some with intentions very different from ours.  The regime in Tehran is drawing closer to developing a nuclear weapon.  The threat of radical Islamic terrorism persists. The threat of weapons of mass destruction proliferation is ever-present. And we are still at war and still have uniformed men and women in conflict. All this and more is ongoing in the world.  And yet the President has chosen this moment for wholesale reductions in the nation’s military capacity.  When the biggest announcement in his last State of the Union address on improving our military was that the Pentagon will start using more clean energy – then you know it’s time for a change.


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta not only called the proposed defense cuts "devastating," he also described them as the strategic equivalent of America "shooting ourselves in the head."  Again, that's the president's own cabinet member.  I also think it's telling that Democrats demagogue the House-passed budget as chock full of "draconian cuts" -- even though it merely slows the rate of spending growth -- but they're committed to actual cuts that would harm our national defense, which is a Constitutional imperative.  This fanaticism even applies to cutting health care to our troops, veterans, and their families.  If Romney raises these points on the stump and cuts a few ads, he might inspire -- shall we say -- draconian cuts to Obama's soft polling advantage on national security and international issues.


UPDATE - Both Gallup's daily tracker and the NYT/CBS poll have the overall head-to-head race within one point.  Each pegs Obama's job approval rating at 44 percent.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography