Ezra Klein makes a decent effort to argue that Romney isn’t in terrible shape for the general election, but he doesn’t touch on Romney’s abysmal favorability ratings that have to be at the center of any discussion about his prospects. As an ABC/Post poll found a few weeks ago, Romney’s favorability of 34% was “the lowest for any leading presidential candidate in ABC/Post polls in primary seasons since 1984.” To put it more bluntly: no other eventual nominee of a major party during the last 28 years has been so unpopular at this point in an election year. According to the same poll, Obama’s favorability among independents was slightly positive (50-46%), and Romney’s was very negative (35-52%).
The only eventual nominee with a favorability rating nearly as poor as Romney’s was Bill Clinton in 1992 (39%), but Clinton’s unfavorability (31%) was not nearly so high. Romney’s unfavorability is 16 points higher than his favorability number. The perception that Romney is widely disliked is well-supported by the available evidence. Yes, Romney can repair some of the damage once the nominating contest is finished, but no recent nominee has had so much ground to make up. Romney will eventually rally almost all Republicans around him as every nominee does, but unless he can find a way to persuade a lot more independents to view him favorably he is out of luck.