Why are Mitt Romney's favorables rising?

A new poll shows that voters are viewing Mitt Romney far more favorably than they did several months ago, despite daily attacks from the Obama camp.

Mary Altaffer/AP
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks outside the Solyndra manufacturing facility in Fremont, Calif., Friday.

Mitt Romney’s reputation with US voters appears to be on the rise. That’s the implication of a new CNN poll, anyway, which shows that Mr. Romney’s favorable rating has jumped from 34 percent in February to 48 percent today.

Forty two percent of respondents to the CNN/ORC International survey say they have an unfavorable view of the presumptive GOP nominee. And President Obama still leads Romney in this particular rating race – his favorability number is 56 percent.

But voters’ views of Romney are becoming more positive at a time when the Obama campaign is doing its best to define him in a negative light. Attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital filled the political blogosphere there for a few weeks. Now the Obama camp is hitting Romney’s record at Massachusetts governor. What’s going on? After all, this CNN poll isn’t alone – as we pointed out last week, a Gallup survey now has him at a 50 percent favorable rating.

 How can Romney’s favorable rise in the face of concerted attack?

For one thing, it’s mostly people who are intensely interested in politics who are paying attention to the campaign at this early stage. Polls show that in general only a minority of voters follow the political kerfuffles of the day – such as whether Romney should repudiate supporter Donald Trump for saying Mr. Obama wasn’t born in the US.

At this stage in the race (OK, maybe at all stages of the race) larger underlying forces are driving voter attitudes. What’s happening now could be the general rallying-around effect that occurs when a candidate wins a nomination.

Presidential candidates typically get a spike in their favorability ratings in the wake of winning the nomination,” wrote Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones recently.

But campaigns just gotta campaign, and in coming weeks we’re still going to see what the people involved believe to be a bare-knuckle battle over Romney’s and Obama’s reputations.

That means more dueling rallies such as occurred last week, when Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod held a press conference in Boston to attack Romney’s Massachusetts record, and Romney held an event in front of the shuttered Solyndra solar plant, which went under despite large government loan guarantees.

Of course, both sides claimed that they were the ones highlighting real issues, while the other guys were just making noise and cheap points.

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