The only positive thing President Obama has going for him with swing voters is that they tend to like him personally. I’m not sure why, but assume it’s some combination of his race, the positive initial impression he made, and the tendency of Americans to want to like their president.
Obama’s increasingly vicious campaign against Mitt Romney puts this one and only asset in jeopardy. It risks everything on gaining votes based on dislike of the president’s opponent, and that’s ordinarily a losing strategy for an incumbent.
Ed Rendell understands this. Today he acknowledged that “all these attacks [by Team Obama] may be hurting the president’s brand a little bit.” For this reason, Rendell concluded that “our supporters went a little bit too far with the felony business” — i.e., the suggestion that Mitt Romney committed a felony with respect to his sworn statements about his role with Bain Capital.
I doubt that the Obama camp would risk hurting the Obama “brand” in this fashion if it didn’t believe he is in big trouble. He is, and over-the-top attacks on the other guy are likely to dig the hole deeper. After all, Obama’s “brand,” not his policies or accomplishments, is what might win him reelection.
UPDATE: Nate Silver has an analysis of Obama’s “favorability” rating vs. his “job approval” rating that I think tends to confirm what I’ve written above.