After a bruising primary, Mitt Romney had the lowest favorability rating of any major-party presidential candidate in nearly three decades. But, that may not be the death-knell that many think it is.
FiveThirtyEight.com's Nate Silver says it's important to put these numbers in perspective. For example, in 1988 and 1992 George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had negative favorability ratings and were able to reverse that trend. Couple it with Barack Obama's break-even favorability numbers, and Romney may not be as dead in the water as some believe.
The favorability deficit between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is more likely to be meaningful the longer it persists. If, for instance, we still see this favorability deficit in July — and certainly if we see it in September or October — the odds are fairly good that Mr. Obama will perform more strongly than the economic fundamentals alone would dictate and could win an election that he is otherwise “supposed” to lose. Of course, this will probably be reflected in head-to-head polls between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, which also become stronger predictors of the election outcome as November draws nearer.
My guess, for what it’s worth, is that we will see some improvement in Mr. Romney’s favorability numbers over the next month or two. It has not been uncommon in the past for a candidate’s numbers to decline while he is actively engaged in a primary, but for him to go through a honeymoon period once he begins to wrap up the nomination.