Gallup Poll Aside, Mitt Romney's Floor Might Also Be His Ceiling

Romney supporters should not get overexcited about a recent polling showing him narrowly besting Obama.

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With former Gov. Mitt Romney besting President Obama in the first Gallup daily tracking poll this year, Walter Russell Mead declares,  "Game on!"

Says Mead:

The best way to describe the race at this point would be "dead heat." That is probably on balance bad news for the President; incumbents usually enjoy a lead at this point in the cycle and former Governor Romney has just finished a bruising primary race while President Obama hasn't had to stir out of the Rose Garden.

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

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post agrees:

[T]he Republican primary is over now. And so this moment is likely to be Romney's low ebb (or close to it). Yes, many Republicans would have preferred someone other than Romney to be their nominee. And yes, they will vote for Romney when matched up against Obama. (The fact that 90 percent of self-identified Republicans went with Romney in the Gallup poll is a telling indicator of that fact.)

And even if Romney is at his low ebb at the moment, it's not that low an ebb.

That's one way to look at it.

[ See political cartoons about Mitt Romney.]

From another angle, Romney, having all but wrapped up the nomination, has been able to retreat to what you might call the challenger's Rose Garden. He's no longer being peskily attacked by the likes of former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. His candidacy is enjoying a respite—a sort of presummer honeymoon.

But what happens when Obama does stir from the actual Rose Garden? Will Romney have the same glass jaw in the general that he sported in the primary? Will he be able to endure an assault from a competent, well-funded opponent?

Another caveat for Romney supporters is that Gallup results have consistently shown Obama with lower numbers than other polls.

[ Read the U.S. News debate: Has the Drawn-out Primary Crippled Romney's Chances Against Obama?]

Look, I think anyone who predicts this will be a landslide, for either side, is crazy. Ours is an intensely divided electorate. Gone are the days when we might see a candidate overcoming a huge midsummer deficit, as in 1988, when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush overcame what appeared to be a major challenge from Gov. Michael Dukakis. Like the seventh and a half floor in Being John Malkovich , the floors are solid, but there's very little headroom.

The fact remains that Romney is carrying a heavy load of unfavorability. His low ebb, as Cillizza has it, might not ultimately look all that much different from his high tide. My prediction still stands: Obama narrowly wins this thing.