Public's Opinion of Mitt Romney Improves As Obama Struggles

The GOP candidate's confidence is increasing.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Alice Pleasant Park in Craig, Colo.

Republicans are starting to see what GOP strategists call a "winner's glow" surrounding GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

He is drawing more positive assessments from the public because he has clinched the Republican presidential nomination, demonstrating the ability to overcome adversity. And the bitter criticism of Romney by his Republican presidential rivals has ended, giving Romney more of a chance to show his positive side.

As a result, GOP leaders say they are increasingly confident that Obama can defeat President Obama in the November election.

They point out that the national race is a statistical dead heat. The latest survey of polls by Real Clear Politics shows that Obama has the support of 46.4 percent of voters and Romney has 45.1 percent.

[Obama Says Private Sector 'Doing Fine'; GOP Jumps on Gaffe]

In addition, Republicans are now emphasizing unity. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who severely criticized Romney during the GOP primaries before dropping out of the presidential race a few weeks ago, says he is increasingly upbeat. "I can tell you, I feel a little bit better about that election," Santorum says, since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker easily survived a recall attempt last week despite vehement opposition from Democrats and union leaders.

Over the past two days, Romney's campaign has sought to capitalize on his perceived momentum by taking the offensive and ridiculing Obama for the president's comment to reporters Friday that "The private sector is doing fine." Under withering criticsm, Obama quickly withdrew the remark.

[Axelrod says voters will judge Obama on actions]

But the Republicans won't let it go. Calling Obama "completely out of touch," a Romney spokesman said Sunday that a new Romney video, entitled "Fine?" will show middle-class workers talking about their economic difficulties in the private sector. On Monday, the Romney campaign released another video, "Jolt," which underscores that the latest federal unemployment report shows that the job-creation rate is weak.

Asked about Obama's comment, David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, said the American people know Obama is on their side and he argued that the GOP criticism won't stick. "I think the American people are smarter than that," Axelrod told ABC's "This Week" Sunday. Axelrod told CBS News Monday morning Obama meant to say that "In the last 27 months, we have created 4.3 miliion private-sector jobs."

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

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