Opinion Brief

The sputtering economy: Great news for Mitt Romney?

In a new poll, Romney pulls even with President Obama, who continues to be dragged down by grim financial news. Is the bad economy Mitt's ace?

A new 2012 poll shows Mitt Romney, the presumptive frontrunner for the GOP nomination, neck and neck with President Obama, whose post-bin Laden bump vanished in the face of deflating financial news. In the Washington Post-ABC News survey, Obama and Romney were tied among all Americans; among registered voters, Romney led 49 percent to 46 percent. Shrewdly enough, the ex-Massachusetts governor and former venture capitalist is making the economy his campaign's focus, declaring that Obama's policies have exacerbated the downturn. How much of an edge will the issue give him?

The economy makes Romney the Republican to beat: Romney's opening economic message "couldn't have come at a better time for him," says NBC News' First Read. Bad economic news "highlights his electability credentials" — seasoned businessman, chief executive of Massachusetts — while it dims Obama's record. On the other hand, Romney's edge makes him the early favorite — and a target for Democrats and his Republican rivals alike."The strong GOP front-runner?"

Actually, financial clouds hurt Romney's chances: Scary economic news would give any GOP nominee, not just Romney, a general-election boost, says Ed Kilgore at The New Republic. And remember, conservative voters may pass over the moderate Romney, who's not their first choice, if Obama's looking vulnerable. "In a worsening economy, it will be much easier for them to vote with their hearts, none of which belong to Mitt.""Hands off"

It all depends on where the economy is on Election Day: President Obama has "spent most of this year insisting that a recovery is under way," says Josh Kraushaar at National Journal, so he'll be on the defensive if the economic pain worsens. Of course, he'll be OK if there's a big turnaround by November 2012, or if "Republicans nominate someone unacceptable to independents and moderates." But in a matchup against Romney in a poor economic climate, the president is no longer the overwhelming favorite."Obama the underdog"

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