Update: “Three years ago today, President Obama said if he couldn't fix the economy that he would be facing a one-term proposition. So it’s no wonder that with Gov. Romney coming off a big victory in a must-win general election state that the White House would be worried about having to face Gov. Romney and be held accountable for President Obama's failures.” – Amanda Henneberg, Mitt Romney Campaign Spokesman
From President Obama's re-election campaign
To: Interested Parties
From: Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager
Re: Mitt Romney’s Negative Campaign is Backfiring
Mitt Romney’s win in Florida came at a very steep price. First, he and his allies had to spend more than $15 million – five times what Newt Gingrich’s team spent – on an air assault to take out what is widely regarded as weak competition. Second, and more ominously for Romney, his unprecedentedly negative, far-right Florida campaign continued to damage him among the swing voters he would need in November.
As a new Pew Research Center poll and other recent surveys have discovered, Republicans are increasingly dissatisfied with their choice of candidates. Nearly three in five Republican primary voters want another candidate to enter the race – a nearly fivefold increase since October.
In fact, Republicans’ disappointment in their frontrunner contributes to the highest level of dissatisfaction in their field that Pew has ever polled -- more than half of Republican or Republican-leaning voters calling the field only fair or poor.
Romney Ran an Unprecedented Negative Campaign to Beat the Weakest Field in Memory
Team Romney wants voters and the national media to believe its victory reflects its candidate’s positions. In reality, it is a product of the fact that Romney and his SuperPAC allies carpet-bombed Gingrich by spending five times as much money on Florida’s airwaves, and running more than 60 television ads for every one Gingrich and his allies aired. Nearly all of the $15.3 million Romney’s campaign and its allies’ spent on advertising in Florida was focused not on their own candidate, but on the rest of a weak field of opponents, contributing to a campaign in which more than nine out of every 10 ads were negative – by far the most negative campaign in Florida’s history.
It’s difficult for Romney to claim Floridians voted for him rather than against his opponents, since less than one-tenth of one percent of the ads in Florida promoted Romney positively. In fact, a single Spanish radio spot was the only positive Romney ad in the entire state during the last week of the primary, and more Floridians reported in exit polls that Romney ran the most unfair campaign.
The More Voters Get to Know Romney, the More They Dislike Him
The more voters get to know Mitt Romney and understand his record not as a job creator, as he claims, but as a corporate buyout specialist who as governor drove his state to 47th in job creation, the more they dislike him. As the New York Times reported Tuesday, “the number of people who view him favorably has plunged, especially among independent voters who will likely decide the general election later this year.”
Independents’ disappointment: A Washington Post/ABC poll came to the same conclusion, finding that Romney’s favorable rating among independents sank while his unfavorable rating rose by nearly the same amount. In fact, they’ve now crossed, putting Romney underwater. His unfavorable rating spiked 17 points, to 51 percent from 34 percent, as his favorable rating fell to 23 percent from 41 percent, a drop of 18 points.
Republicans’ dissatisfaction: Romney can take little comfort in his own party’s support. The same Post/ABC poll found his unfavorable rating more than doubling among Republicans, jumping to 32 percent in late January from 14 percent less than a month earlier. At the same time, his favorability dropped by 3 points.
Republicans’ disappointment in their frontrunner contributes to the highest level of dissatisfaction in their field that Pew has ever polled -- more than half of Republican or Republican-leaning voters calling the field only fair or poor. Even more disconcerting for Romney is that the trend is moving in the wrong direction: the number who call the field excellent or good has dropped five points, to less than 50 percent, between the beginning and end of January, and the number calling it fair or poor rose eight points to top 50 percent over that same period.
Voters’ Disapproval of Romney Isn’t Normal, Even in a Contested Primary
Romney’s free-fall over the past three months is not typical of a candidate in a heated primary battle. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton had significantly higher favorable than unfavorable ratings at this point in the 2008 race, when nearly 80 percent of Democrats rated their field as excellent or good. Unlike Romney, both candidates’ numbers had improved rather than declined since the previous November, and voters’ satisfaction with their field continued to rise. Bush and Gore enjoyed similarly positive ratings.
Last election, three in five Republicans called their party’s field excellent or good – the same proportion of Republicans who this year hope another candidate will get in the race.
Pew Survey of Voters Saying Their Field is Excellent or Good
Long Primary Battle Ahead
The 2012 Republican Presidential primary has been unpredictable, and the format and timing of the process favors a prolonged fight for the Republican nomination. In fact, the race has barely begun – only 5% of delegates have been decided.
Gingrich’s strength in national polls (and particularly in some of the upcoming states in February and March) give him an opportunity to earn delegates in the races ahead. A possible Santorum drop-out may also provide an important boost.
Largely by design, the GOP primary calendar favors a longer nominating contest. Even after the February contests, only 15% of delegates will be awarded. No candidate has a chance to mathematically secure the nomination until at least April.
Conclusion: On to Nevada
Romney’s unique ability to push key constituencies away rather than attract their support will continue to weaken his appeal to general-election voters, no matter how many primary delegates he secures. He continues to lose the middle class vote in primary contests – and less than 9% percent of his donations in the 4th quarter of 2011 came from small-dollar donors who gave $200 or less. By contrast, 98 percent of President Obama’s donations in the same quarter were below $250.
As the Republican race now moves to Nevada, Romney’s out-of-touch positions on housing, seniors’ health and immigration – as well as his lonely support of the Yucca Mountain project Nevadans overwhelmingly oppose and President Obama ended – will continue to repel the very voters who will decide the White House.