I missed the Bloomberg poll in the recent avalanche of polling results, but The Cable didn’t — and for good reason. One month after Democrats bragged at their convention that they would pound Mitt Romney on foreign policy and national security, Barack Obama suddenly finds himself at a disadvantage on the issue of terrorism. That wasn’t the only decline Bloomberg measured, either:
The foreign-policy results of the new Bloomberg National Poll haven’t gotten much attention yet, but the survey contains some bad news for the Obama campaign. According to the poll, Mitt Romney has a 48-42 advantage over Barack Obama on the question of which candidate would be tougher on terrorism. Romney, in other words, has encroached on one of Obama’s signature strengths.
What makes this result so surprising is that the president has consistently trounced Romney when it comes to counterterrorism. A Fox News poll earlier this month found that 49 percent of respondents trusted Obama to do a better job than Romney in protecting the United States from terrorist attacks, compared with 41 percent who put their faith in the Republican candidate. The president had a 51-40 advantage on handling terrorism in an ABC News/Washington Post poll around the same time, and a 50-35 edge on carrying out the war on terror in an Ipsos/Reuters poll in August. The Democrats’ rare national-security muscle was on full display at their convention, where speakers boasted about the administration’s successful raid against Osama bin Laden and targeted killings of al Qaeda leaders.
The Bloomberg poll contains other grim findings for Obama — such as declining approval of the president’s diplomacy and a neck-and-neck battle between Obama and Romney on flashpoint campaign issues such as energy independence, Chinese trade practices, relations with Israel, and Iran’s nuclear program (61 percent of respondents were skeptical about Obama’s pledge to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon).
This appears to be the first national poll taken after the White House’s Benghazi narrative began to collapse. The poll itself doesn’t ask any confirming questions about that issue, though, so it’s unclear to what extent this may be driving those numbers. The shift, though, is significant, giving Romney a six-point lead on terrorism, the first such lead I can recall this year. Romney also has a narrow two-point lead on relations with other countries, well within the margin of error, but putting support for Obama at just 45% — very low for an incumbent President who pitched his diplomatic skill at the convention.
Obama has a six-point lead in this poll among likely voters, 49/43, but there are other danger signs. Romney has a bigger lead on the economy, winning by 12, 53/41, and the biggest issue by far in this poll is unemployment/jobs (43% rank it #1). Obama only gets majorities on two issue questions: understanding your problems and struggles (51/38) and womens’ issues (54/34). The rest of the issues are virtual toss-ups, except for the Romney six-point lead on terrorism and the Romney seven-point lead on gas prices, and a six-point Obama lead on health care — usually a huge Democratic advantage.
So how did Obama end up with a six-point lead? It might have something to do with the D/R/I split among likely voters of 30/24/41, which narrows to 38/36/21 with leaners included. Despite this split, though, Republicans have a narrow lead on the Congressional ballot, 43/41 and 45/43 with leaners, so either the sample split may not be impacting the poll numbers, or the GOP will be stronger in Congressional races that the media assumes.
Update: “Declines” was supposed to be “decline.”