How Romney Reboots the Race

Much of the chatter in the run-up to Wednesday’s first debate is about how Mitt Romney seizes the opportunity to reverse the blue momentum that opinion polls have been documenting over the last few weeks. The obvious answer is lurking deep in the internals of this morning’s new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Near the bottom of that survey pollsters assess the all-important likability factor, but not in a direct way, like asking respondents how much they like each candidate. Instead, they pose a set of comparative hypotheticals of the “who would you rather do ___ with” sort. Here’s the full set of questions and the overall result for registered voters in the sample who responded to each question:

On a ship in a storm, who would you rather have as the captain? (Obama +12%)

Who would you rather invite to dinner at your home? (Obama +22%)

Who would you rather go on an overnight camping trip with? (Obama +14%)

Who would you rather have babysit your children? (Obama 41%, Romney 41%)

Whose music playlist would you rather listen to? (Obama +16%)

Who would you rather see as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars? (Obama +25%)

On most of these questions demographic breakdowns favor Obama regardless of age, gender, income, or education. Even those over 50 would rather listen to Obama’s playlist by 10 percentage points. Only those who self-identify as Republicans or conservatives are more apt to invite Romney to dinner, go on a camping trip with him, or groove on his tunes.

But how about that babysitting thing? Men prefer Romney as babysitter by 15 percentage points, as do folks who make more than $50K/year. Those with a college degree would rather have Romney looking after the kids by 8 points, while those without prefer Obama by 7 points.

And — to come to the heart of the matter — what about those all-important independents? It turns out they favor Romney by 2 points as babysitter, but prefer Obama by 14 points as dinner guest (and for dinner music prefer Obama’s playlist by 13 points). Bottom line: independents want Romney to keep an eye on the kids while they spend quality time making goo-goo eyes at the incumbent president.

So Romney’s strategy for Wednesday is now abundantly clear. To win the debate and move the needle, forget jobs, forget the taxes, forget the Middle East. Just look voters straight in the eye and make us a poll-tested promise: “Vote for me and I will come over and babysit.” Game change!

By the way, personally I would much rather see Romney dance than Obama.

A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.


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