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The Globe and Mail

Romney and the NFL refs: to Americans, they both stink

U.S. Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney pauses as speaks to reporters in Los Angeles, Sept. 17, 2012.

Jim Young/Reuters

At the rate American voters are turning on Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee might even have a hard time winning a popularity contest against those controversial National Football League replacement refs.

Poll after poll taken since last week, when a video surfaced in which Mr. Romney disparaged Americans who do not pay income tax, shows that voters increasingly feel the GOP nominee is no more qualified for the White House than the college-level referees now policing NFL games are up to the task of filling in for the locked-out pros.

To turn the election into a real race, Mr. Romney may need to do more than simply win the three October presidential debates, the first of which will take place a week from Wednesday. He may need serial touchdowns – without any help from the debate refs.

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An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday showed that 61 per cent of Americans now have an unfavourable view of Mr. Romney's campaign, up from 39 per cent in July. In contrast, fully 53 per cent of voters have a favourable view of President Barack Obama's campaign, up from 46 per cent two months ago.

In addition, fully 54 per cent of voters have an unfavourable opinion of Mr. Romney's comment, captured in a secretly-taped video of his remarks to a group of donors, that 47 per cent of Americans consider themselves "victims" and lack personal responsibility.

Indeed, this and other polls show Mr. Romney is losing ground among every category of voters, including white men, traditionally a bastion of support for Republicans.

The latest Quinnipiac University swing state poll conducted for The New York Times and CBS News, and released Wednesday, showed Mr. Obama building a 10-percentage point lead over Mr. Romney among likely voters in Ohio and a nine point advance in Florida.

If those numbers hold on election day, Mr. Romney would suffer a massive rout. Even at the height of his popularity in 2008, Mr. Obama won Ohio by less than five percentage points and Florida by about three against John McCain.

Without a victory in Ohio and/or Florida, Mr. Romney would be unlikely to reach the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. Losing those bellwether states by wider margins than Mr. McCain would also likely translate into a bigger loss nationally for Mr. Romney.

With almost six weeks to go, the election is not over, of course. But Mr. Romney is currently losing every argument he tries to make for his candidacy.

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In July, Florida voters rated Mr. Romney as slightly better than Mr. Obama on the handling the economy. In the latest Quinnipiac poll conducted between Sept. 18 and Sept. 24, Mr. Obama outpolls Mr. Romney on the economy by five points in Florida and six in Ohio.

The two candidates were roughly equal on national security questions in July. In the latest poll, Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney on that question by 12 points in Ohio and eight points in Florida.

The only policy area where Mr. Romney still does better than Mr. Obama relates to bringing down the budget deficit. But whereas Mr. Romney led the President on that question by 16 points in Florida and 10 points in Ohio in July, his advance is now down to two points in Florida and four points in Ohio.

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