Gallup: Despite Bain attacks, Romney more trusted than Obama on the economy

The man’s nothing if not consistent. He campaigns as he governs, spending astounding sums to little effect.

Despite concerted Democratic attacks on his business record, Republican challenger Mitt Romney scores a significant advantage over President Obama when it comes to managing the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs, a national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, those surveyed say Romney’s background in business, including his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, would cause him to make good decisions, not bad ones, in dealing with the nation’s economic problems over the next four years…

The Democratic attacks on Romney seem to have had little effect on voters’ assessments of him. In February, 53% said the former Massachusetts governor had the personality and leadership qualities a president should have; now 54% do. Then, 42% said they agreed with Romney on the issues that mattered most to them; now 45% do.

Also significant against the backdrop of Bain demagoguery: 61 percent say that government’s trying to do too many things that should be left to the private sector, the highest number since Gallup began tracking that in the early 90s. Don’t read too much into that — no one in the GOP’s going to make a run at privatizing Social Security this year — but it’s significant mainly as a temperature check of the electorate. O’s spent weeks scaremongering about Romney’s supposedly rapacious entrepreneurial record in hopes of steering opinion his way on the public/private choice to come in November. How’s that working out?

Earlier this morning, before the Gallup poll was released, Sean Trende ran the numbers and wondered what exactly Obama had achieved with his month-long anti-Bain ad binge:

[W]here is the evidence that anything has changed, outside of the media narrative? PrioritiesUSA, the Obama campaign’s super PAC, suggests this as the key finding: “37% of voters say that Romney’s business experience at Bain Capital make them LESS likely to vote for him. Just 27% say it makes them MORE likely to vote for him.”

But another way of reporting this information would be to say that, after a seven- to eight-figure ad blitz aimed at convincing voters that Romney is a cross between the buffoonish Thurston Howell III and the rapacious Gordon Gekko, 63 percent of voters either find Romney’s business experience irrelevant or say it makes them more likely to vote for him. (Of course, it also matters how those 37 percent are distributed. If the bulk of those who find Romney’s business experience unpalatable are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, then this isn’t much of a problem for the Republican’s campaign.)

The polls overall have barely budged, but there has been some dramatic movement in one key metric flagged by Trende:

That trend isn’t replicated in the new Gallup numbers — apparently, Obama leads Romney in likability by a two-to-one margin (the hard data isn’t available yet) — but there’s no obvious explanation to me for why O’s favorables should have tanked so dramatically besides a backlash to his negativity. Last month’s jobs numbers were bad, but the public’s been stoic about poor jobs reports thus far. Could be that swing voters are finally realizing that The One’s “hope and change” blather in 2008 was simply an opportunistic campaign strategy aimed at capitalizing on Bush fatigue, not some deeply felt outlook on politics. “Hope” won’t beat Romney after three years of grinding unemployment, so he and Ax and Plouffe are only too happy to toss it and reach for the two-by-four instead. Go figure that some pro-O independents who bought the hype four years ago might feel disillusioned.

Exit question: Did Obama hit Romney on Bain too soon? There are, evidently, fewer undecideds this year than there have been in the previous three elections, a quirk that Jazz speculated about yesterday. I think he’s onto something about the accelerating flow of information (a theory that’ll be familiar to Kaus fans), but I’m not sure which way it cuts. If, thanks to the ubiquity of political news and platforms on which to access it, you’ve got a better-informed and earlier-deciding electorate overall, does that mean you should attack earlier or later? My gut is that it’s dumb to slam your opponent during the summer doldrums if more people than usual have already made up their minds and only the hardcore apathetic undecideds, who are probably tuned out until fall, are left. But then, why not try to leverage the faster flow of info by getting the attention of those apathetics as soon as possible? Make a big stink about Bain now and hope they pay attention (a little). And yet, there’s been no poll movement. How come? Are the apathetics still asleep or just really unimpressed with the Bain nonsense?