Now that Mitt Romney has finally effectively slain the Rick Santorum beast, it's time to reconsider whether he's totally doomed against President Obama, right? Sure, Sen. John McCain said on CNN Wednesday morning, "Mitt has a lot of ground to make up," but it's going to be "a very spirited campaign." Sure, The National Review's Jonah Goldberg says, Obama modeled Obamacare on Romneycare, but while "Romney might be inconsistent to attack Obamacare, at least on the mandate, but there’s no basis in reality to say he 'can't' attack it nonetheless." Fine, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol admits, the 2012 campaign looks a little like 2004 or 1996, "But the good news is that Romney is cold-blooded and hardheaded. He didn't put himself through all this to run a respectable losing general election race."
Obama looked like toast a few months ago, and now that the economy is doing better, everyone thinks he's going to win. As The Washington Post's Michael Gerson writes, "Commentators tend to exaggerate current trends, so Obama is now generally viewed as invincible. But his Gallup approval remains south of 50 percent -- a traditional indicator of vulnerability." But compared to past presidents, he doesn't look that vulnerable. The New York Times' Nate Silver posts this nifty chart (at left) showing that incumbent presidents who get reelected fit a surprisingly similar pattern: an approval rating in the high 80s to low 90s within their party, and a general approval rating around 50 percent. George W. Bush had a 91 percent approval rating among Republicans and a 52 percent approval rating among everyone; Bill Clinton had an 86 percent approval rating among Democrats and a 54 percent approval rating nationally; Richard Nixon had an 82 percent approval rating among Republicans and a 54 percent approval rating nationally. Obama's approval rating was 84 percent among Democrats and 46 percent nationally last week. Other recent polls have showed a higher approval rating. Ipsos's polling director Clifford Young gives Obama a chance of being reelected between 85 percent and 99 percent based on approval ratings and analysis of 187 elections in 35 countries.
On MSNBC Wednesday, Joe Scarborough had a far less hopeful tone than some of his fellow conservatives. "Let's just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? The Republican establishment -- I've yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment who thinks Mitt Romney will win the general election this year…. I've yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican Congress, that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election." Former McCain adviser Dan Schnur told Bloomberg that Romney is "in a hole" after talking about immigration and women's health issues during the primary; Rick Perry pollster Tony Fabrizio said Romney "starts the process at a disadvantage, because he came into this with having not a lot of I.D., but what he had was net-positive, and he will probably come out of it with more I.D. but it’s net-negative." Even lobbyist Charlie Black, an "informal adviser" to Romney, told Bloomberg the campaign has to do some "cleaning up a little bit of any negative perceptions that were created in the primary." But it's not just that people don't like Romney enough, it's that they don't dislike Obama enough, either.