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Obama’s swing state edge and the power of negative ads

A new poll shows incumbent President Obama with a slight edge over candidate Romney
A new poll shows incumbent President Obama with a slight edge over candidate Romney
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A new poll from Quinnipiac University reveals that Barack Obama is ahead of Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. In Pennsylvania, the lead is a substantial 11 percent, while Florida and Ohio both give Obama a 6 percent advantage.

While Obama won all three states in 2008, the real reason for his lead is probably due to the fact that voters feel like they know more about him than they do Romney. For instance, 15 percent of Ohio voters wanted to know more about Romney, while only 2 percent said the same for Obama. Both campaigns will have to capitalize on this information to get their candidates into the White House this November, and you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that they’ll turn to the trusted and traditional approach politicians have taken for decades: negative ads. It looks like Obama’s team is coming out on top with its use of negative messaging, but that may be a matter of political physics. For instance, in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, zero percent of voters said they didn’t know how they felt about Obama.

Obama has already been vetted as a candidate and president, so any attack ads Romney runs are unlikely to change anyone’s mind. However, that’s clearly not the case for anti-Romney ads, as a sizable amount of voters are still unsure about him. This explains why a study from Vanderbilt University shows that Obama’s ads calling out Romney’s record while at Bain Capital led to a 16 percent lead in independent voters, while Romney does not enjoy a similar bump with any of his ads.

What can Mitt Romney due to counteract this situation? Should he run more positive ads about himself, as several conservatives are publicly suggesting? Even if he should, will he do it? Do you feel like you know Mitt Romney at this point? And if voters repeatedly say they want to see more positive ads, why do negative ones work so much better?


Jonathan Wilcox, Republican Strategist; former speech writer for Governor Pete Wilson

Matt Rodriguez, Democratic strategist; former senior Obama advisor in 2008, who now runs the Los Angeles office for the Dewey Square Group