Obama and Romney: the likability factor

In the latest Elon University Poll, 49% of North Carolinians said they have a favorable opinion of the President Obama to only 28% who say the same of Mitt Romney. Because people seem to like horse-race stories, let’s put it this way:   Obama has lapped Romney in terms of likability. But like most horse-race presentions, those numbers only tell part of the full story.

Obama’s likability numbers have not changed markedly since last November — 42% have an unfavorable opinion of him and 8 percent “don’t know.”

The most interesting thing about Romney’s numbers is not that only 28% of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor. The most interesting thing is that 28% answered “don’t know” when asked what they think of him.

This, after nearly a year of campaigning, dozens of televised GOP debates and appearances on the news every day.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for Romney. The opportunity is this: Come visit with us. North Carolina is considered a battleground state, and it’s time to bring the battle to us. People want to see and hear the candidates on their turf. They want to see and hear Romney on their local television station and hometown newspapers. Obama has been here more than a dozen times since he’s been president. Romney has campaigned in the state once — last week — this campaign season. That doesn’t make us feel appreciated.

Listen to  Jason Wolonick, a 19-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill freshman from Pinehurst who attended the president’s speech on Tuesday. “He appealed to me personally because he said, ‘I was there.’ And he was there.”

 Are you listening, Gov. Romney?

The challenge? Romney needs to persuade almost all of those 28% “don’t knows” to join the 28% who like him to win the state.* He can do that, too, because the president is vulnerable on the economy and other areas, such as health care, which we’ll talk about on next week.

That could well be a big challenge. Among 18-34 year-olds polled, 38% said “don’t know.” Meanwhile, Obama is “slow jammin’ the news” on Jimmy Fallon. That age group went Obama in 2008.

Nationally, FOX News has Obama polling with 50% favorable to Romney’s 42%. CBS News/New York Times has Obama polling with 42% favorable to Romney’s 29%.

* That’s me adding 2+2. Whether it adds up to 4 will be seen. The Elon University Poll does not do horse race polling. We survey North Carolina residents, not likely voters.

— John Robinson

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