On second thought: Obama 52, Romney 43

Old theory from an hour ago: Dude, we’ve got this.

New theory: Dude, game over.

Half of those questioned say that Obama is more likely to stand up for what he believes, with only 29% saying that about Romney. Nearly half say that Romney is more likely to change his position on the issues for political reasons, just 39% saying the same thing about the president. Obama has double-digit leads over Romney on likeability, honesty, confidence, values, leadership and almost every other characteristic tested, with one important exception.

“Obama and Romney are essentially tied on who is more likely to get the economy moving again, and that may provide Romney an opening to chip away at Obama’s current overall lead,” says Holland…

Obama’s likeability and strong performance on personal characteristics helps explain why three-quarters of his supporters questioned say their vote will be a vote for Obama, not a vote against his opponent. By contrast, more than six in ten Romney supporters say their choice will be mostly be a vote against Obama.

The crosstabs (in PDF format) are here for your perusal. Unless I missed it, there’s no partisan breakdown given so there’s no hard evidence that there’s a Democratic skew here or a Republican skew in Gallup’s tracker. But here’s a clue as to what’s going on:

Among independents, Gallup has Romney leading O by six; among the same group, CNN has Obama leading Mitt by five. That discrepancy explains the discrepancy in the overall numbers to a large extent, but not entirely. Gallup also has self-identified Democrats and Republicans as mirror images of each other — 90-6 for their party’s nominee over his opponent. CNN has similar numbers for Democrats but for Republicans the split is 85/11. I’m skeptical of that, but maybe anti-Romney sentiment among some GOPers is so profound as to make them take a second look at (shudder) The One. I’m skeptical of this too:

Fourteen percent of tea-party supporters are leaning towards … O? Not staying home, mind you, but actually stepping up for four more years of Obamanomics? C’mon. And what about this?

Obama won women by 13 points in 2008 so a 16-point gender gap is not, alas, out of the realm of possibility. Explain to me, though, how he wins men by three — which would be larger than the spread between him and McCain — after four years of a grinding “mancession.” Again, c’mon.

If you’re looking for good news in the crosstabs, which are consistently brutal for Romney, here’s the best I can do aside from the data point about the economy mentioned above in the blockquote:

Democrats want the election to be a choice between Obama and a guy whom Paul Begala compares to Thurston Howell III. Republicans want it to be a pure referendum on four years of Hopenchange. These numbers suggest an election closer to the GOP’s model — it’s all about the O, with lots of Romney’s support locked in on a pure anti-Obama vote. (That 63 percent figure is the highest CNN has measured since 1984. John Kerry, who drew 55 percent of his support from anti-Bush sentiment, is next highest.) If the economy struggles all the way to election day, some of the indies in the “vote for Obama” column are bound to have second thoughts. Then again, assuming CNN’s numbers are right, it’s ominous that they haven’t had second thoughts already. Should we actually be happy that Mitt Romney is even more dependent upon anti-incumbent sentiment for votes than a charisma-less stiff like John Kerry?

Here’s the new ad from Obama’s Super PAC hitting the Thurston Howell III message with all the subtlety you’d expect. Exit question: How significant is it that O leads Romney by nearly 30 points in terms of likability? Political analysts tend to scoff, I’ve found, when you suggest that likability might carry a struggling incumbent over the finish line despite heavy liabilities on key voter concerns like the economy, but think back over the last 36 years. When has the less likable candidate defeated the more likable one? Likability is a close call between Carter and Ford, I think, but otherwise it looks like a straight line to victory in every election after that. Gulp.

Update: I sure hope I’m wrong about likability because, if not, we’re in for a bruising.

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