The new CNN poll has Obama leading Romney 52-45. That's close to the margin separating the two candidates among independents. It's also close to the distance between them when it comes to personal approval. (No, it's not "just one poll." The Fox poll is pretty close to the same.)
The pollsters conclude, correctly, that the president's negative campaigning has had a significant effect. One result is that voters no longer have any confidence that the economy might get better under Romney.
My opinion has been and contnues to be that the 2008 election showed how well the Democrats can do when everything is working their way: The attractiveness of candidate Obama, the ineptitude of candidate McCain, the unpopularity of the incumbent Repubican president (who was judged clueless and evil enough for a significant number of Republicans to have concluded that their party needed to be punished and/or needed a break), the economic meltdown, etc.
2010 showed how well the Republicans can do when everything is working their way: The unpopularity of ObamaCare, the continung economic swoon, the enthusiatic energy of the Tea Partiers, etc.
This time, I don't sense much enthusiasm in either direction. But Obama, so far, has taken the focus off his record and placed in on Romney's record as an allegedly cruel and heartless oligarch. And Romney has not yet made the case that he's a credible alternative. The problem with his running as a successful businessman is average Americans (such as me) can't really figure out how Bain Capital makes all its money. So it's not so hard for the Democrats, quite unfairly, to get us to think the worst.
52-45 was about the result in 2008 and 2010. I've assumed all along that it would come back to even (to the 2000 result) in 2012. Obama has lost a lot of his teflon (although not as much as he should have), and the Tea Party energy ain't what it once was (although it's still around).
I still assume a close election in 2012. Romney is a brilliant and capable man. He'll get his negative campaigning going. He's made the right first step by turning the attention to the president's assault on RELIGIOUS FREEDOM—that is, on churches on organized bodies of thought and action. One thing he's going to have to do, though, is portray himself as less a businessman than a statesman. And as the CNN poll reveals in the Republican support for Rubio as VP, he'd also do well to pick a running make who'll stir conservatives with the spirit of 2010.
As Larry Sabato reminds us, there's no reason to take June polling too seriously. At this point neither candidate should be full of confidence or despair. If June polling were the key, we'd have had President Mike Dukakis and President Ross Perot (our first clinically crazy president). Most importantly for thinking about this year, please remember that President Jimmy Carter would have served two terms.