Election 2012: Who's More Likable?

On Day 45 of the “Newt Death Watch” – a media-penned name coined while waiting for GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich to drop out – the former Speaker of the House announced in a short YouTube video that he was out of the running for President.  He thanked the “nearly” 180,000 people who donated to the campaign, the thousands who volunteered, and the two million who voted for him in the primaries.

Watch Gingrich’s campaign adios here.

Mitt Romney, for his part, has been acting like the 2012 Republican nominee since the end of March.  The Romney campaign attacks have increasingly focused on President Obama. This week was no exception, with Romney accusing the President of exploiting the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death for political gain (referring to an Obama campaign video).

 “I think politicizing [the Osama bin Laden assassination] and trying to draw a distinction between himself and myself was an inappropriate use of the very important event that brought America together,” Romney said.

Watch the Obama “One Chance” campaign ad here.

Although President Obama has solidified his foreign policy credentials with bin Laden’s assassination and the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Iraq, barring a terrorist attack or world catastrophe, Americans are overwhelmingly going to vote on “pocketbook” issues.  Simply put, what’s happening in homes and neighborhoods, like a focus on job creation, will be more important that what happens on the other side of the world.

When it comes to the economy, both Romney and Obama have vulnerabilities.  The former Massachusetts governor points to turning the once failing 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics into a success as proof of his ability to improve the economy, an argument that is making headway with voters.  But critics point to the thousands of workers who lost their jobs when he was head of the investment firm Bain Capital.  The President inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, but the economy has recovered at a snail’s pace on his watch.  Although unemployment is at 8.2 percent, among Latinos, it consistently trends 2 points above the national average. And it sucks to be young: For those under 25, unemployment hovers at 16 percent.

While Romney is competitive on the economy front, President Obama is ahead with voters who, well, “like” the President more, voters who believe he is likelier to be in touch with average Americans, and those who think he’ll stick up for the middle class, according to April polls by both Washington Post/ABC News poll and the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The “likeability” factor is crucial as both campaigns add more emphasis on targeting of groups, such as Latinos and women, to their messages covering big topics of the economy or foreign policy. Fifty-one percent of registered women voters surveyed favor Obama, compared with 37 percent who support Romney, according to an April Reuters/Ipsos poll.  A Fox News Latino poll conducted in February shows Latinos favor the President six to one.

With more than six months left before the general election, expect to see a lot more of “Nurses for Obama” bumper stickers, “Conservative Women Love Romney!” T-shirts, and “¡Órale Obama!” signs. And maybe even Romney rapping on YouTube (you know, to get the youth vote). Because with an election so close, every vote is going to count.

Tell us: Will you be basing your vote on the big issues (like the economy) or the more targeted ones that appeal to you as a Latina?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.