Thanks largely to President Obama's tanking favorability, if the 2012 election were held today, Mitt Romney would win. But because of Obamacare's terrible poll numbers, Republicans could end up getting exactly what they wanted during the 2012 campaign. Americans didn't want Mitt Romney. The GOP may not need him.
Let's start with that Romney-versus-Obama number that's invigorated conservative blogs and Republicans on Twitter. Here's how ABC News describes the finding from the poll it conducted with The Washington Post.
[P]erhaps adding insult to injury, registered voters divide numerically in Mitt Romney’s favor, 49-45 percent, if they had a mulligan for the 2012 presidential election. While the difference between the two is within the poll’s error margin, Obama’s support is 6 points below his actual showing a year ago.
There are several caveats in that paragraph. The first is the margin of error warning, though that's not a big deal. The second is the focus on registered voters. Among all Americans, the split is 47 percent to 47 percent. Yes, only registered voters can vote, but ABC News savvily decided to focus on the 49-45 split instead. Interestingly, most of the movement here — comparing the survey results with 2012 exit polls — is also among independents. They backed Romney by 5 points in 2012; chose him by 10 in this poll. But, as any former vice president can tell you, it's not the popular vote that matters in an election. ABC notes that Obamacare, the driver for Obama's unpopularity, is far more unpopular in states that backed Romney — meaning that the split between Obama and Romney is likely larger in those states that Obama lost in 2012 anyway.