The Des Moines Register, perhaps smarting from President Obama's bizarre insistence (later rescinded after complaints from theRegister and other media) on keeping his half-hour telephone interview with the editors off the record, dropped a rather astonishing front page on Iowa voters this morning:
It's not exactly a subtle contrast. Obama might be heavily into Muppets, but he probably never expected the Des Moines Register to stuff him into an Oscar the Grouch costume.
Today, Politico caused a stir by posting the following excerpt from Rolling Stone's adoring cover story on Obama: "As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. ??? [S]he said, 'Tell him: You can do it.??? Obama grinned. ??? ???You know, kids have good instincts,??? Obama offered. 'They look at the other guy and say, Well, that???s a bullshitter, I can tell.'"
The Associated Press released a poll today that shows Mitt Romney two points in the lead over Obama, 47-45, but with two remarkable additional findings: Obama's formerly enormous 16-point advantage among women is gone (as is most of Romney's lead among men), and Romney's favorability rating is now better than Obama's.
"Likability" used to be one of Obama's most celebrated assets, particularly the sense that favorable personal impressions of the President extended beyond his dedicated base of support. But Obama squandered that advantage, beginning with the incredibly nasty negative campaign he launched against Romney at the close of the Republican primary. Obama might have thought he could keep himself clean by farming the really dirty work out to surrogates, but a candidate can only be insulated from his campaign to a certain degree.
And when Romney was finally introduced to the general electorate through the Republican convention, and especially the first presidential debate, Obama's mountain of dirt came tumbling down on top of him. When you spend millions of dollars painting the challenger as a monster, but he turns out to be a likable, presidential guy, you come off looking like a jerk.
Obama and Biden's shrill, bitter debate performances caused the aura of likability to fade even more. To this day, it's difficult to look at a screen shot of Obama's facial expression from the final presidential debate and not think of the red Angry Bird. Childish taunts about "Romnesia" and "binders full of women" have only made Obama seem more bratty, petulant, and small-minded. Whether the Des Moines Register was deliberately looking to poke Obama in the ribs with that front page or not, they've accurately captured the spirit of the race: angry, bitter, divisive attacks from Obama, versus energy and optimism from Romney.
No wonder the Obama campaign is desperately trying to paint Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock as a goblin after his explanation for why he doesn't support aborting children conceived in rape, and surgically attach him to Mitt Romney's hip. Team Obama woke up in the final weeks of the campaign, and discovered that despite all the fawning interviews from Hollywood magazines, schmoozing with "The View," and puff poll questions showing people wanted to have a beer with him, Obama is considerably less likable than Romney.