Two new polls show a very mixed reaction to President Obama's support for gay marriage -- they're split evenly over whether they support the position, and a large majority think he did it for cynical reasons. But Obama and Mitt Romney have largely moved on from that fight, and for a less flashy data in the polls: Americans think the economy is getting better, but they think that Romney could do a better job of handling it. So it's no suprise that in the last 24 hours three different ads have been released focusing on Romney's record at Bain Capital as a job destroyer.
New polls from the New York Times/ CBS News and USA Today/ Gallup show that Americans are getting more optimistic about the economy -- they're more positive in their outlook than at any time since 2008. That should be great news for Obama, since not just media people but actual political scientists say the state of the economy is the deciding factor in whether a president is reelected. But as Americans have grown more positive about the economy, they've also grown more positive about Mitt Romney.
- Better Economy. The Times poll shows 32 percent of voters say the economy is very or fairly good -- the highest level since January 2008. Only 20 percent say it's very bad -- down from 47 percent only eight months ago. The Gallup poll shows that while 71 percent think the economy is poor, 58 percent think it will be good in a year, and two-thirds think they'll be better off in a year. A third say they're better off now than they were a year ago -- the highest number since before the financial crisis.
- Nicer Romney. The Times poll finds 31 percent of voters see Romney favorably, while 38 percent see him unfavorably. That's not great, but it's a lot better than in mid-February, when it was 26 percent with a favorable view and 40 percent with an unfavorable view. The Gallup poll finds Romney with a much higher favorable rating -- 50 percent -- and only 41 percent seeing him unfavorably. More important, a majority, 55 percent, say the economy would get better under a Romney administration, while only 46 percent say that about a second Obama administration.
That's why we're talking about Bain Capital again. On Monday morning, Obama's campaign released an ad attacking Romney's record at Bain Capital with testimonials from grizzled men who lost their jobs at GST Steel while Bain controlled it. Bain was a "vampire," they said. On Monday afternoon, Romney's campaign released an ad defending his Bain record, with testimonial from Steel Dynamics employees who did great under Bain. On Tuesday, the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA released an ad featuring different grizzled men from GST Steel saying Romney was a "job destroyer." Keep in mind the findings from the Gallup poll when you read this line from Priorities' ad: "Whether the companies they came in and worked with made money or not, was irrelevant. Bain Capital always made money. If we lost, they made money. If we survived, they made money. It's as simple as that. He promised us the same things he's promising the United States. And he'll give you the same thing he gave us. Nothing. He'll take it all."
Politico's Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman report that some Republicans are nervous that Romney's campaign isn't ready to deal with the attacks on Bain. It's response "didn’t pack anywhere near the gut-punch of the Obama spot, and the campaign would not say whether it will ever hit the airwaves, and, as one Republican operative pointed out, it had Romney’s team 'litigating' his opponent’s case instead of making his own," they write. On Monday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman defended Romney's Bain record, saying, "You know, that is capitalism," Bloomberg reports. Unfortunately, he used the same phrase to explain JP Morgan's embarrassing $2 billion trading loss: "That’s capitalism." (In January, Pew Research Center found that capitalism has only a 50 percent approval rating.)
Romney's campaign will stop "litigating" Bain, it seems, and force Obama to defend something less popular than capitalism: government-sponsored capitalism. "The Romney campaign wants to introduce a new concept into the debate over President Obama's economic record," the Washington Examiner's Byron York reports. "Imagine the president ran an investment firm. He poured billions of dollars into green energy projects that didn't work. People lost jobs. He poured billions into sometimes implausible stimulus projects that didn't work, either." And he laid of people at General Motors, too. Capitalism: ugly under Romney, even uglier under Obama.