Romney Closes Gap With Obama

Despite efforts by the Obama campaign to portray Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist, Romney's favorability rating has increased 14 percentage points since February, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Monday.

President Barack Obama still has a higher favorability rating -- 56 percent to Romney's 48 percent. But, Romney's jump from 34 percent in February cannot be good news for a campaign that has spent significant time and money working to lower Romney's favorability.

The Obama campaign is the first in modern history to start a campaign with an ad attacking their opponent rather than saying something positive about themselves. It is also spending significant amounts of money much earlier than usual.

Until Monday, the Obama campaign has focused its efforts on Romney's business record at Bain Capital, a private equity firm. The ads featured people who had worked at companies owned by Bain Capital but lost their jobs after Bain shut them down.

Several Democrats, though, have questioned this strategy. Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., for instance, said he was uncomfortable with the attacks on Romney's business record and called them "nauseating," on NBC's May 20 "Meet the Press." (Later that day, he posted a video taking back those remarks.)

Last Thursday night, former President Bill Clinton added his name to the list of Democrats praising Romney's Bain record. Calling his business record "sterling," Clinton said that Romney "crosses the qualification threshold" with his experience in private business and as the former governor of Massachusetts.

The Obama campaign used a different tactic in a new ad released Monday morning. It criticizes Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts, arguing that, under Romney's leadership, Massachusetts had slow job growth, increased taxes, bigger government and more long-term debt.

The poll shows essentially a dead heat in the national race. Obama has 49 percent support to Romney's 46 percent support among registered voters, which is within the poll's 3.5 percentage point margin of error. The mid-April CNN/ORC poll showed Obama leading by nine percentage points, 52 percent to 43 percent.

There is some good news for the Obama campaign in the May 29-31 poll of 1,009 adults (including 895 registered voters). Obama has a 21 percentage point advantage (55 percent to 34 percent) when asked, "who do you think better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans -- Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?"