Some Republicans still skittish about Romney

One in four self-identified Republicans has an unfavorable view of how Mitt Romney is running his campaign, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The poll represents the latest evidence of unease within some segments of the GOP about how the former Massachusetts governor is progressing in the 2012 race.

Sixty-six percent of Republicans in the poll viewed the way Romney is running his campaign in a favorable light, while 24 percent viewed it unfavorably. Those numbers lagged behind how President Barack Obama’s campaign is viewed among Democrats — 75 percent of whom regard his bid favorably.

There’s also an enthusiasm gap for Romney in the data. While 51 percent of liberal Democrats feel strongly favorably toward Obama’s campaign, just 31 percent of conservatives in the GOP feel the same about Romney’s bid.

The numbers come after several weeks of criticism of the Romney campaign that began with a tweet from News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and has come to include lingering questions about the exact date of Romney’s departure from Bain Capital and his unwillingness to release more than two years of past tax returns.

And they suggest that unrest about how Romney is running is not simply limited to a few bold-faced names like Murdoch and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

To be clear, though, these numbers do not indicate that broad swaths of GOP view the Romney campaign as having skidded off the tracks, or anything close to it. Rather, they point to the fact that, within a certain segment of the Republican Party, there is dissatisfaction about how the way Romney is campaigning.

In Romney’s defense, there will always be a certain group of partisans for whom second-guessing its nominee is a favorite pastime. And among independents, who almost certainly will decide the identity of the next president, there is little statistical difference between how the two campaigns are viewed. Forty-seven percent of independents regard Obama’s campaign favorably, while 46 percent view it unfavorably; for Romney it’s 41 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable.

What the Post-ABC numbers will do, however, is fuel a narrative that Romney has lost control of his campaign over the last few weeks.

The Romney team has already taken steps to bolster its communications operation and insisted that any further changes will be by addition, not subtraction. The question now will be whether it can stick to that pledge amid the media maelstrom in which it currently finds itself.

The poll was conducted by telephone July 11 -15 among a random national sample of 1,015 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. The results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa.

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