In a Mitt Romney matchup with Barack Obama, latest polling data point to either a close race or an Obama blowout, depending on which numbers you look at. It may come down to which matters more: economic performance or personal appeal.
Throughout the presidential campaign so far, prognosticators have generally split between two possible outcomes for the fall: that this election will be extremely close and could go either way, or that President Obama will win big.
There's plenty of data right now to support both hypotheses. Those going with the "squeaker" prediction see the election as largely a referendum on the president's economic stewardship, and point to multiple polls showing Mitt Romney beating Mr. Obama on the issue of who is best able to handle economic matters. Bolstering this argument further is the fact that Obama and Mr. Romney are in a dead heat in the latest national polls – with Romney actually leading in the inaugural Gallup tracking poll by two percentage points. Given that Romney has just emerged from a bruising primary fight, it's reasonable to assume he could boost his ratings further in weeks to come.
"Obama landslide" predictors, on the other hand, see the election as less likely to be a pure referendum on the economy than a contest between two candidates – one of whom is dramatically more personally popular than the other (Obama bested Romney on likability by nearly 40 points in a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll). They point to the fact that Romney's favorability ratings are at historic lows for a presumptive nominee. And Obama is beating Romney handily among women and among Hispanics, and easily wins on a wide range of categories such as leadership, honesty, and which candidate best understands the concerns of average Americans.