The latest Rasmussen tracking poll has Mitt Romney leading President Obama by a healthy 7 point margin — 50 to 43. This is the largest lead Romney has held in this polling.
Obama’s approval rating is only 44 percent, compared to 55 percent who disapprove. The president’s 9 point approval gap essentially matches his 7 percent voting gap. At least according to this poll, then, Romney is performing as one would expect a “generic” Republican challenger to perform.
Nothing Romney has done, or that has been revealed about him, recently would explain his mini-surge. Again, therefore, voter sentiment (to the extent it is accurately reflected in these tracking polls) seems to be driven by views about the incumbent, as is to be expected. During the period covered by this tracking poll, Obama “evolved” on gay marriage while bad news from the jobs front sunk in.
My sense is that Romney probably will continue to perform like a generic Republican. Whether such performance means a popular vote victory of 7 points, or victory at all, remains to be seen. To avoid a Romney victory, though, Obama needs something more than attacks on Romney over peripheral matters and matters that are beyond even the periphery.
JOHN adds: This is a three-day tracking poll based on phone calls done during the evening, and Obama announced his support for gay marriage at 3:00 on Wednesday. So probably about half of the respondents in this particular population could have been influenced by that issue. For the last couple of days previous to today’s poll, Romney had a five-point lead. So, without more data, one could surmise that Romney was starting to pull away based on the economy, and that the gay marriage issue has given him an additional boost. Alternatively, it may turn out that Romney’s apparent surge is just a blip on the screen. Time will tell. Here are the results of Rasmussen’s tracking poll since January: