The 2012 presidential campaign is now fully underway. Both sides are engaged, with barbs being tossed and sharp elbows thrown at every opportunity. According to most national polls, the issues of greatest concern to the American people are jobs, the economy, and the future of the country. So why is everyone talking about Ted Nugent, Hilary Rosen, and a host of other issues that seemingly don't matter a swivel-eyed tinker's damn? The answer may be that the president, who still has the ability to set the agenda, doesn't want to.
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Obama holds a narrow 46 to 42 percent lead over his likely Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. This is in line with other surveys over the last week showing the race to be nip-and-tuck between the two ever since former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum suspended his campaign.
The survey, conducted over five days in mid-April among just over 2,500 registered U.S. voters, shows Obama with a commanding 10-point lead among women, 49 percent to 39 percent. This, after several weeks of rhetoric from the president and his allies bashing the GOP for its supposed "war on women," is not surprising. However, on key "kitchen table" issues like the economy, jobs, and gas prices, Romney has the edge.
The likely GOP candidate is seen as better on the economy by 47 percent to 43. He's seen as better at creating jobs by 44 percent to 31. And, on the issue that may be the sleeper of the fall campaign, Romney is seen as better able to tackle the high price of gasoline—which is nearing $5.00 a gallon in some places—than Obama, 44 percent to 31 percent.
"The presidential race remains tight. With Gov. Mitt Romney now the de facto Republican nominee, a look at how the two men are perceived by the electorate reflects much of the historic differences between the two parties in close elections, which this seems likely to be," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said in a release.
"Obama has a big lead among women and is seen as the candidate most in tune with their needs. He is seen as more in touch with average Americans. Republican Romney seems to hold an edge on the economy—the top issue of the campaign—and holds his own against the incumbent on being a strong leader," Brown said, adding that Romney's major opening "is that by 56-38 percent voters disapprove of the president's handling of the economy."
It doesn't help Obama to talk about the economy. In fact, it helps when everyone else's attention is focused elsewhere. Which helps explain why so much of the campaign coverage, for the moment at least, is directed toward ancillary issues that—while they may produce good ratings on the 24-hour news channels—do little to demonstrate the real contrast between the candidates on the issues that matter most to voters.