|Barack Obama campaigns Saturday during a downpour in Glen Allen, Va.|
(Photograph by Jason Reed /Reuters)
I always clench my jaw when I read one of those presidential poll stories that begin with: "If the election were held tomorrow..."
Well, the election won't be held tomorrow. Or next week.
The 2012 presidential election is on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - almost 4 months from now.
And a lot can happen between now and then.
And you can expect plenty more of those poll stories to appear on the front page of your local paper in the next 114 days.
According to Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the latest Florida poll shows President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney "essentially tied in America's biggest battleground state."
The Times' Smith writes:
Dig into the numbers, and what's most surprising is that Obama is at all competitive with Romney:
• 54 percent of likely Florida voters say the country is on the "wrong track" with Obama at the helm.
• Only 35 percent believe his policies have improved the economy, while 41 percent say they have made it worse.
• 46 percent of voters approve of the president's job performance, while 50 percent disapprove.
Romney's numbers could change dramatically either way once he picks his running mate. A number of other factors could also affect both candidates' poll numbers between now and election day.
But what's not likely to change much is the lead Obama has over Romney when it comes to likeability.
Much of Obama's appeal is due in part to the fact that - unlike Mitt Romney - he seems to connect with average Americans. And that drives conservatives crazy.
Who hasn't seen the photograph of the Leader of the Free World fist-bumping a White House custodian?
Or the video of the Commander-in-Chief "magically" soothing a crying baby?
And how can you not like a guy who mercilessly ripped an unrepentant blowhard like Donald Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondent's Dinner?
Obama's rapport with voters surfaced again yesterday when he braved a torrential downpour and spoke to rain-soaked supporters at a campaign stop in Virginia.
(Perhaps Obama saw the rain as an omen. In October 2008, then candidate Obama campaigned in the rain in Pennsylvania while his opponent, John McCain cancelled an event because of the weather. And we all know how that ended.)
But it takes more than being well-liked or giving an occasional campaign speech in the rain to get elected.
There's also the "jerk factor." In addition to a candidate's stand on issues, many Americans also take into consideration whether or not the candidate is a jerk. Face it, no one likes a jerk.
In a piece posted last May on The Daily Beast, columnist Michael Tomasky explored that very question: "It’s been a long time since the country elected a man as personally unappealing as Mitt Romney. Will Americans overlook their deeply held conviction that he’s a jerk?"
After the revelation that Romney may have bullied a gay classmate in high school, Tomasky wrote, "We learned ... that [Romney] behaved like an a**hole and is now pretending to forget it. A jerk is one thing. But a jerk who takes no responsibility for his jerkitude is pretty much the definition of an unlikeable person."
I'm sure some of Romney's supporters will say that, he too, is likeable. Just as likeable as Obama.
From The Daily Beast piece: "He reeks of privilege. Every time he says something off the cuff he says something obnoxious. Corporations are people, pal. I like firing people. Where on earth did you get those Godforsaken cookies?"
Or, consider the exchange that the draft-dodging Romney had with a gay Viet Nam vet while campaigning in New Hampshire last December.
November 6th is a long way off. Romney still has to win his party's nomination and pick a running mate.
But, I'm pretty sure along the way he'll say more stupid things. Count on it.
And that just might widen President Obama's likability margin even more.
After all, here in Florida, we know all too well what happens when a jerk gets into office.