With the Republican primary contest over and the general election under way, Mitt Romney faces a voting public whose disdain for him has reached levels that pollsters describe as “historic.” From his embittered opponents as well as from Romney and his campaign, Americans have learned that the former Massachusetts governor simply won’t uphold any political position, issue, or achievement he thinks might cost him votes. He doesn’t seem to understand that his inconstancy forfeits more respect than any disagreeable opinion would.
No matter how carefully the former Massachusetts governor parses and prevaricates, many voters, including more than a few conservatives, evidently feel they’ve detected the inner Mitt: a man with utmost regard for himself and people like him – and a profound disregard for people like most of them. They’ve observed him straining to express concern for the unemployed, the poor, and the powerless, while sounding sincerely resentful whenever the privileged are held accountable. They’ve perceived an attitude of entitlement, whether he is withholding tax returns, defending tax breaks for billionaires, or spending vast amounts to defame opponents. And they don’t like it, no matter what they may feel about Barack Obama.
Although a new Gallup poll shows Romney with a small lead matched against Obama – indicating how close this election may ultimately become – voters consistently appear o disapprove of the presumptive Republican nominee. As they have learned more about him over the past several years, his negative ratings have soared. Over the past five years, since he began to run for president, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that negative views of Romney have roughly doubled, from about 24 percent to 47 percent, while his positive ratings have lagged (only 12 percent express “strongly” positive feelings about him).
More important, Romney polls 21 points behind President Obama in public approval – the worst rating for a likely presidential nominee in a Post/ABC poll since 1984. Indeed, he is the first to be “underwater,” with higher negative than positive ratings, in the last eight presidential elections.