DOUG ROSS: Pollsters offer insights on history being made

2012-03-14T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Pollsters offer insights on history being madeBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

On Super Tuesday, I said hello to Romney on behalf of everyone in Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs.

OK, so it wasn't presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It was the tiny town of Romney, Ind., and I didn't even stop.

I was driving to DePauw University to hear two pollsters, Democrat and Republican, give their take on this year's elections.

Republican pollster Christine Matthews of Bellwether Research in Washington said at that Super Tuesday session at DePauw that the GOP presidential candidates have net negatives on their important favorable/unfavorable ratings because of the protracted campaign.

"It's been hard on them as a brand," she said.

Matthews said it's "certainly possible" Indiana will be in play when the May 8 primary finally rolls around.

It was fun being in the spotlight in 2008 when the Democratic nomination was still up for grabs then. Remember that iconic photo with Hillary Clinton downing a shot of whiskey in Crown Point? This year Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul might become drinking buddies with us.

Matthews and Democratic pollster Fred Yang, of Garin-Hart-Young Research Group in Washington, agree that Romney will win the nomination, sooner or later, but what about November?

"He needs to unite the party. He needs to focus on November," Yang said, to establish himself as the clear front-runner and not just as the one in front at the moment.

As for President Barack Obama, his numbers don't look good now, but the economy is improving. Michael Hicks, director of Ball State's Center for Business and Economic Research, said Tuesday that Indiana could be at full employment by year's end. For the rest of the nation, that might take a few more years.

But economic performance is just one factor in evaluating a candidate. There's also likability and his role as commander in chief to take into account.

Obama's rated high on foreign policy, Yang said, because of successes like the death of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and other successes.

Obama's likability is high, too. That's evidenced in ratings of how much people like or dislike him.

Will Romney make independent voters as sleepy as the town that shares his name? Will Obama be able to overcome the economic troubles that have dogged him his entire term? It's too soon to tell.

"One thing you've got to say about Obama, though, is he kind of defies history," Yang said.

So does the Republican primary. "This process has certainly defied categorization," Matthews said. "It has defied the norms."

This historic election will be one to tell your grandchildren about.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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