“Obama’s high favorable scores are reflective of the raised expectations and hopes that voters had for Obama when he was first elected,” said Romney pollster Neil Newhouse. “What we’re finding now in our focus groups and polling is that voters can contemporaneously like the president while at the same time believing that his policies have failed to make things better in the country and that it’s time to make a change. They don’t need to walk away from their 2008 vote in order to now support Gov. Romney.”

In other words, according to this reading, voters are saying: “Obama’s a nice guy, but …”…

“The importance of the personal ratings is that, at the end of the day, when people are thinking through what they may consider to be an imperfect choice, the personal ratings will earn Obama the benefit of the doubt from a lot of people,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who has advised the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. “If they don’t really like you, they don’t listen to you. And what the personal ratings say is, Obama still has the ear of the American people, and for a lot of voters it’s a very sympathetic ear.”

Republican pollster Whit Ayres, on the other hand, contends that Obama’s favorability rating is merely a vestige of the 2008 campaign — of affection for what Obama represented as a hope-and-change candidate and of respect for the fact that he’s the first black president.