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Please begin with an informative title:

One of the more interesting polls lately (remembering all along that polls are merely snapshots, thermometers taking the political temperature if you will, and not predictors this far out) comes from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, as highlighted by the Washington Post's Behind the Numbers:
Americans overall in the new Post-ABC poll offer mixed reviews of three top contenders to challenge President Obama, with many still reserving judgment on Perry, Romney and Cain. But negative ratings for Romney and Perry — both better known — have ticked up in the past month, now approaching four in 10; just over one in four has a negative opinion of Cain.
Specifically, you can see where conservative Republicans have more than tripled their Perry unfavorables from 7 to 26 in just one month. And one can also see this about Herman Cain:
Cain, who has skyrocketed into the top tier in GOP polls, claims he would be able to compete with Obama for black voters. But only 18 percent of African Americans in the new poll rate him favorably, with twice as many — 37 percent — giving him negative marks. Cain does have a better ratio of favorable to unfavorable ratings than either Perry (49 percent unfavorable, 15 percent favorable) or Romney (50 to 15), but trails Obama by large margins. In a September Post-ABC poll, 86 percent of African Americans rated Obama favorably, although at the time there was slippage in the number giving the president “strongly favorable” reviews.
Just for comparison, Obama's favorable number stands at 49 this week in our own Daily Kos/SEIU Weekly State of the Nation Poll.

And also as a yardstick (though far from an apples-to-apples comparison because it's just before the election, with known candidates) I grabbed this from Frank Newport's book Winning the White House 2008:

Romney, currently stuck at 33, needs to get his favorables up above 50 by election day. if he's the nominee, they'll move up, just as George H. W. Bush moved from the 30s to the mid 40s. As to how much, we'll just have to see.

But the thing that keeps Obama in this race and makes it competitive is that people like Obama (they just don't like his performance on the economy. ) It's hard to find "like" and "Romney" in the same sentence.

Actually, in a separate Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll, the one word that describes Romney to the public is something a little different:

That's 60 for Mormon and another 11 for religion when it comes to Romney. And while it's more neutral than the 15 who correctly said "idiot" for Perry, clearly it's Romney's number one identifier. I'm not sure that's what his camp would want.

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Originally posted to Greg Dworkin on Wed Oct 19, 2011 at 06:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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