Most people agree that we are not better off today than we were four years ago. Even President Obama knows that's the case. He disagrees as to the reason why (he blames George W. Bush for what he "inherited") but he knows Americans are hurting. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, wants the president to take responsibility for his own actions. Mr. Obama has overseen the stimulus debacle, with Solyndra and numerous other boondoggles, the rising cost of health care as a result of the president's plan, an unemployment rate above 8 percent and the number of people in need of food stamps soaring under his presidency (a record 1 in 7 Americans, or 44.7 million people) to name just a few.
Most Americans would give the edge to Mr. Romney when it comes to handling the economy. But the amazing thing, given those facts, is that Mr. Obama is still as high as he is in the polls. The latest Gallup poll has the president and Mr. Romney in a virtual tie at 46 percent. Rasmussen gives a slight edge to Mr. Romney at 47 percent, with the president at 44 percent.
These numbers reflect that even though the Obama mystique is nowhere near its 2008 potency, a lot of people are still enamored with this president, and they live on his every word. It doesn't help Mr. Romney's numbers that he has a GOP trust problem.
A good example is found in the Senate confirmation earlier this month of Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Hurwitz to a federal judgeship on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge is known as the "architect of Roe" for his contribution in developing the arguments that sustained Roev. Wade. That case is the quintessential example of judicial activism and the decision that opened the door to more than 50 million babies being aborted in the U.S. to date.
The issues of life and judicial activism are of extreme importance for Republicans. Yet the confirmation of the architect of Roe received significant Republican support. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine all voted for the cloture motion that led to his confirmation. The nomination was championed aggressively by Judge Hurwitz's home-state senators, Mr. Kyl and Mr. McCain.
If you wonder how this reflects on Mr. Romney, think about the last name mentioned. Mr. McCain was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008. He could have been president. Presumably, he could have given us the architect of Roe as a judge, maybe even a Supreme Court justice.
Mr. McCain touted his pro-life record and stood against judicial activism in 2008. But then he voted for Judge Hurwitz. Why? Is it because he knows the judge personally or the judge is from his home state? The impression is that for some in the GOP, certain things trump principle.
Mr. Romney must make the case that he is not like that, because those types of moves lend credence to Mr. Obama's suggestion that Mr. Romney and the GOP are for "their friends." Isn't that the way he tries to portray Republicans and "big business" or "millionaires and billionaires," as the line goes?
Mr. Romney should tackle this trust issue at its root. He should make it resoundingly clear that he would cut the budget, not just divert the same money to "better" endeavors. He must make clear that he will lead, not blame a dysfunctional Senate for not accomplishing what he has promised. He has promised to support conservative principles in judicial nominations and other key Cabinet positions - and he must come through.
If Mr. Romney can prove he is a trustworthy Republican standard-bearer, something Mr. McCain could not, he will pull ahead in the polls and ultimately win. But until he conquers the GOP trust issue, the skepticism will continue, and the polls will reflect that.
Mario Diaz is legal counsel for Concerned Women for America.