President Obama -- the guy whose economic policies inspired the creation of the Tea Party -- is the guy more Americans trust, compared to Mitt Romney at least, to handle tax policy, a new poll from ABC News and The Washington Post finds. Just a few months ago, the slow economic recovery and a moderate Republican candidate led The New York Times' Nate Silver to declare Obama the underdog in 2012. But the president looks a little less doomed now. 52 percent of Americans trust Obama on taxes, compared to Romney's 42 percent, ABC's Gary Langer writes. And one datapoint in particular should bring particular glee to the Obama reelection team: a supermajority -- 66 percent -- of Americans think Romney doesn't pay enough in taxes.
When Silver made his widely-discussed forecast, the economy wasn't growing much, and Obama's approval rating was just 43 percent. He gave Romney a 58 percent chance of winning the general election if he secured the Republican nomination. But last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the GDP grew at a rate of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent. If you put that -- and Obama's 46 percent approval rating, according to Gallup -- into Silver's nifty election chances calculator, Romney has a 49 percent chance of winning. (The ABC News/Washington Post poll finds Obama's approval rating even higher, at 50 percent, which Silver had imagined coming only if Obama "finds a cure for cancer.")
Silver took the perceived ideology of the candidate into account -- imagining the most moderate, Jon Huntsman, would have the easiest time beating Obama, while the perceived most conservative, Michele Bachmann, would have the hardest time. Romney was seen has having the second-best chance of beating Obama. But perhaps analyzing Romney's ideology didn't take into account that the personal is political -- the personal being Romney's personal income tax return. Even half of Republicans think Romney doesn't pay enough taxes. The New York Times' Helene Cooper reports Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse practically squealed with delight when Romney uttered the words "I'm not concerned about the very poor" because there is a social safety net. “It was a two-fer!” Woodhouse told The Times, because Democrats could use it to portray Romney as insensitive and accuse him of not really caring about the middle class. Monday's poll finds people trust Obama to protect middle class people by 55 percent to Romney's 37 percent. Half of Americans now say Obama desserves reelection, which is what George W. Bush faced in 2004 and is better than what Bill Clinton faced in 1996.