Both President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are capable of winning the November election, but each candidate has serious vulnerabilities that could throw the outcome either way, says prominent Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
"There are a lot of voters who are still up for grabs," Garin told me. "They are very much open to the president but are ambivalent, and have doubts about Romney." More broadly, America remains deeply divided about the direction that the country should take, and this will make the race all the more competitive.
Garin adds that many of the president's negatives, such as relatively high unemployment and soaring federal spending during his administration, "are baked into the cake. But there is a lot more about Romney that voters don't know and probably won't like." Garin says that most Americans haven't been paying close attention to the campaign for the Republican nomination, so there are some surprises in store for them when they learn more about the former Massachusetts governor.
"The policy positions he's taken will be a hard sell with voters" in the general election, Garin predicts. Among them: support for tax cuts for the rich, for cutting middle-class programs such as Medicare and aid to education, and opposition to abortion rights and federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Romney also disagrees with Obama's plan to pull out all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 if not sooner, a timetable the GOP candidate argues is premature. But recent polls show that most Americans have turned against the war and want the troops home as soon as possible. Obama's campaign will likely remind voters of this, and it could be a sleeper issue that will damage Romney's campaign, Garin says.