A new Wall Street Journal poll has both bad and good news for Mitt Romney. The good news is that he has regained the lead he lost back in November and made major inroads among voters who he was having trouble winning over, including conservatives. (Others are reporting that the contest is over, that Romney will trounce on Super Tuesday and effectively end the nomination battle.)
The poll also shows that President Barack Obama's approval rate is the highest it's been since May. But that's not the bad news.
Romney is the least-liked front-runner in decades (and no, it wouldn't be better with Santorum or Gingrich). You might remember the enthusiasm that greeted Bob Dole when he got the "It's my turn" nomination back in 1996. But he was only -4% on the negative/positive thermometer. Romney is -12%, with 40% of Americans reporting a negative view of him.
In the latest poll, Mr. Romney gained support among pockets of his party that so far had been tough for him to win over. His backing among tea-party supporters jumped to 35%, up from 21% in January, while his support among Republicans who call themselves "very conservative" nearly doubled, to 32%. He also saw a surge of support in the South, where Mr. Gingrich's own backing plunged to a third of what it was just six weeks ago.
Overall, [Peter] Hart said, "Romney has done what he would have wanted to achieve in the last five weeks."
But the poll just as vividly illustrates the challenges Mr. Romney faces, even if he does well on Tuesday and continues to widen his delegate lead, as Republican leaders expect.
Not since the 1996 presidential candidacy of Republican Bob Dole has a party's likely nominee been viewed negatively by a plurality of Americans at this point in an election. Yet Mr. Romney's challenge in building a favorable image is steeper than Mr. Dole's was then.
So are you all ready for this to be over and have Mitt Romney as your nominee? Either way, the experts are saying you better be! And does anyone have a comparison between Dole's opponent in 1996 and Romney's opponent in 2012? Was Clinton more or less vulnerable than Obama at this point in 1996? I don't quite remember.
Also, I can think of nowhere else to share this so I just have to add that I talked to my mother, a long-time Romney fan, yesterday. And she was actually giddy with excitement over how he's doing. Of course, she was also giddy about Bob Dole back in 1996, so I'm not sure what that means.