The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a dead heat in the race for the White House.
Given that Obama has had a relatively good week and Romney something of a bad one, this poll is a real shocker. Asked for whom they would vote were the election held today, 46 percent of the nearly 600 registered voters surveyed said Romney while 43 percent said Obama. Given that the error margin is plus or minus four points, it looks like the race is all tied up.
Actually, Romney may be in better shape than the poll suggests. The same survey conducted in April showed each man with 46 percent of the vote while the polls from March and February showed the president ahead.
What is particularly interesting is this is a poll of registered voters, meaning it's a survey representing the entire universe of those who may cast ballots in the upcoming election. Thanks to things like "motor voter," there are far more Democrats in the pool of registered voters than Republicans and, unlike surveys of so-called "likely voters," many of them may not bother to vote. It is not too much of an inference, therefore, to think that Obama may be losing the country—and that's because he has failed to get a handle on the nation's economic troubles.
Unemployment is down from where it had been under Obama, to 8.1 percent, but that's not because the economy is creating jobs. It's because, as this simple analysis shows, large numbers of people have simply stopped looking for work. "In April," wrote Tyler Durden on Zerohedge.com, "the number of people not in the labor force rose by a whopping 522,000 from 87,897,000 to 88,419,000," which he says is the highest number ever recorded. The labor force participation rate, meaning the people who are working or looking for work, is now at 64.3 percent, a 30-year low.
With numbers like that, with Obama having wiped out 30 years of job creation under presidents of both parties, is it any surprise that 62 percent of respondents in the CBS News/New York Times poll "cited the economy as the most important issue in the presidential election"?
"Concern over the budget deficit ranked a distant second at 11 percent, followed by health care at 9 percent. Seven percent picked same-sex marriage, 4 percent cited foreign policy and 2 percent chose immigration," according to an analysis of the numbers conducted by CBS.
The response of the White House and Obama's campaign to the numbers has been to attack the way the survey was conducted—which is really their only choice since they can't dispute what the numbers say. The president's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutler, told NBC's Chuck Todd, "We can't put the methodology of that poll aside, because the methodology was significantly biased." When pressed, Cutler called the sample "biased."
Maybe so, but that doesn't get around the fact that 67 percent of respondents—remember these are registered voters, not likely voters—rated the condition of the national economy as either "fairly bad" or "very bad." And 63 percent said they thought things would stay the same or get worse.
Equally disturbing for the White House, and perhaps the reason why the Obama campaign, its political allies, and its friends in the media have suddenly unleashed the attack squad against the former governor, is that this same poll found Romney leading among independents, among men and among women, 46 percent to 44 percent for the president—still within the margin of error but an indication that any bounce the Democrats might have gotten over accusations the GOP was engaged in a "war on women" has dissipated.
Team Obama needs a new strategy. It doesn't take a college degree to figure out that just about the only thing left is to try and make Romney radioactive, which means a nasty and negative summer is in the offing. It will be interesting to see if the same journalists and Washington "deep thinkers" who call out the Republicans every time they say something uncomplimentary will be as hard on the Democrats as they "go nuclear" on Romney.