Monday, October 15, 2012

Obama's tax advantage

In years past, one of the most reliable issues for the GOP presidential candidate was taxes.

But, for a number of reason (see below), that advantage has disappeared this cycle. In fact, Barack Obama regularly bests Mitt Romney on the issue.

To wit: Obama has led Romney on taxes in eight of the last ten polls.

Here are the results when voters were asked some variation of the question: Whom do you prefer on taxes?

a. Washington Post/ABC poll (RV): Obama 48% Romney 46%.

b. Politico/GW poll: Obama 49% Romney 47%.

c. Fox News (LV): Romney 49% Obama 42%.

d. CNN (LV): Obama 52% Romney 44%.

e. NBC/Marist (RV): Obama 46% Romney 41%.

f. NPR (LV ): Obama 48% Romney 43%.

g. ABC/Washington Post (RV): Obama 49% Romney 44%.

h. Politico/George Washington (LV): Obama 49% Romney 46%.

i. Fox News (RV): Romney 46% Obama 45%.

j. Fox News (RV September): Obama 48% Romney 45%.

Three points to make here.

1. Romney's wealth probably hurts him on the issue. Democrats have long accused Republicans of favoring the wealthy on taxes, but nevertheless, "handling taxes" is usually a win for Republicans.

The two things, though, that make Romney an unusually easy target on taxes are his wealth and his personal tax returns, and Obama has hit him at every possible turn on those issues.

2. Over summer, a Wall Street Journal poll found that 50% of Americans wanted the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire, and a Pew poll also showed that Americans were twice as likely to say ending the tax cuts for the wealthiest would be beneficial than extending them.

Romney, of course, argues for an extension on the tax cuts, which puts him, at least, partially at odds with the public.

3. The saving grace for Romney?

Taxes just don't seem to be on the minds of most. Instead, voters are far more concerned about the economy, jobs, and healthcare. Of course, tax policy is inexorably-linked with all those, but for, ahem, "low information" voters, they're often seen as sui generis.

Nevertheless, Romney is running without the benefit of one of the GOP's more dependable messages.