Obama Widens Lead Over Romney as Smear Tactics Take Hold

Friday, 10 Aug 2012 11:06 AM

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The Obama campaign’s unrelenting and discredited assault on GOP challenger Mitt Romney over his taxes and business career are taking a toll on the former Massachusetts governor’s standing with voters.

Three national polls released in the last two days show President Barack Obama opening up a seven to nine point lead.

A new Fox News poll shows Obama ahead 49 to 40 percent, the biggest spread since Romney secured the Republican nomination. A CNN/ORC International poll shows that among registered voters, Obama leads Romney 52 percent to 45 percent and an Reuters/Ipsos poll also has Obama up by 7, 49 to 42.

In recent weeks Obama campaign surrogates have led a no-holds-barred assault on Romney.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has repeatedly claimed that a source told him that Romney paid no taxes for a decade. An ad by a pro-Obama super PAC also seeks to link a Bain investment in a steel plant that eventually closed to the cancer death a woman married to one of the workers who lost his job.

In the ad, Joe Soptic recounts how he lost his job, his healthcare, his family’s healthcare and then his wife to cancer. However, The Washington Post, in a fact check of the ad, reported that Soptic’s wife died in 2006 when Romney was governor of Massachusetts. She had her own health insurance after the plant closed but later lost it when she left a job due to injury. The Post awarded the ad four Pinocchios, it's measure for untruths.

Reid’s claim has also been roundly discredited but the charges appear to have raised doubts about Romney in voters’ minds.

“The Obama campaign has spent heavily on advertising attacking Romney’s time at Bain Capital and his tax returns. And it appears to be working,” Fox wrote in an analysis of the poll’s results.

“Romney’s favorable rating dropped six percentage points since last month and now sits at 46 percent, down from 52 percent in mid-July. At the same time his unfavorable rating went up five points. Romney’s favorable rating has held steady among his party faithful, but it’s down eight percentage points among independents and seven points among Democrats.”

According to the Fox poll, Obama has picked up support among independents who now favor him over Romney by 11 percent. Some 54 percent of voters now have a positive view of the president, his highest rating in a year.

“The events of the past two weeks appear to have energized Democratic voters a bit," Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News poll with Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, told Fox. “But perhaps more critically, Romney’s support among independents has declined. The Obama campaign has -- at least in the short-term -- succeeded in raising questions about Romney’s fitness to govern and in making this less of a referendum and more of a choice election."

One bright spot for Romney is that more voters trust him to do a better job on improving the economy. He leads the president by 3 points in that key area. However, Romney had a 7-point advantage on the issue in June.

The CNN poll found that 64 percent of all Americans, and 68 percent of independents, think Romney favors the rich over the middle class, while 63 percent think Romney should release more tax returns than he has already made public. The number rises to 67 percent among independents.

"These are all signs that a summer of negative campaigning on the part of the Democrats seems to be taking its toll on the presumptive GOP nominee," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly two-thirds think the country is moving in the wrong direction. Just 31 percent said the country was moving in the right direction, the lowest since December.

"The overall 'right track, wrong track' is worse than last month - the news hasn't been great lately," Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson told Reuters. "But Obama seems to be, to some extent, inoculated against some of the worst of that."

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