Polls Show Independents Turning on Mitt Romney

Romney’s rough July finds expression in two new national polls.

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Two national polls came out Thursday indicating that Mitt Romney's brutal July has taken its toll on the presumptive Republican nominee's national standing, while President Barack Obama's has held steady or improved.

One survey came from Fox News and gave Obama a 49-40 lead over Romney. That's twice his margin from last month, 45-41. How'd that happen? Take it away Fox:

Obama's advantage comes largely from increased support among independents, who now pick him over Romney by 11 percentage points. Some 30 percent of independents are undecided. Last month, Obama had a four-point edge among independents, while Romney had the advantage from April through early June.

More: Romney's favorable rating is down eight points among independents, and, "Independents are twice as likely to say they are comfortable with Obama (33 percent) than with Romney (16 percent) as president."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

CNN's new poll has Obama leading by seven points, 52-45 among registered voters. That poll also has Obama up 11 among independents, 53-42 percent. "Among independents, the poll indicates Romney's image has taken a beating," according to CNN. "In May, only 40% of independents had an unfavorable view of Romney. Now, 52% of independents have a negative view of him." Overall, 48 percent of voters have a negative view of Romney.

This is the product of a July that saw an unceasing assault on Romney—both making Bain toxic and the details of the Romney tax returns the greatest national mystery since the JFK assassination—from Obama and his allies, as well as a bungled trip to Europe. Hot Air's Allahpundit is surprised that there hasn't been blowback on Obama:

Amazingly, The One's not paying much of a price yet for negativity. When asked if Romney has attacked Obama unfairly, the response is 44/50 between "has" and "has not." Obama's numbers are almost identical at 45/49, suggesting that perceptions on this question are still breaking along predictable party lines. Maybe that'll change in the next week or two; this poll was conducted over the last few days, before the sleaze-tastic steelworker ad really started buzzing.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

It's really not that surprising, and Allahpundit hits on it later in his blog post: "Romney's an unknown quantity for most while Obama's been the most famous man on the planet for four years." As I've written elsewhere, we've lived with Obama for four years. We know him and we haven't forgotten what the economy's like. He's the proverbial baked cake. Romney is the variable in the equation, which is what makes the last couple of months, and July especially, so mystifying. Why did his campaign decide to go blow for negative blow with the Obamans when Romney was much more vulnerable in the fight—he had yet to be defined—than was Obama? Did they miss the lesson of 2004 when President George W. Bush and his allies defined John Kerry during the summer's dog days? Or 1996 when Bill Clinton and Dick Morris used Democratic National Committee soft money to bury Bob Dole while he languished, broke waiting for general election matching funds?

The Romney-gave-my-wife cancer ads are indeed sleaze-tastic, but I'm still not convinced they'll be enough to move the needle on Obama. Maybe the 2008 Obama whose talk of hope and change could capture the public imagination. But the 2012 Obama requires no imagination and so may well be able to weather political street fighting.

Update: I missed a third poll, from Ipsos-Reuters which has Obama ahead 49-42. This is virtually unchanged from July, when the president was ahead 49-43. Interestingly, Obama's disapproval rating among independents jumped from 41 to 49, though this figure has been all over the place (41 in July, 55 in June, 40 in May, 57 in April) in the Reuters-Ipsos polls. They didn't ask about Romney's fav/unfav. The single biggest issue change is on taxes, where Romney led Obama 44-42 in June but now trails the president 49-38.