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Why Mitt Romney had a good month

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Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

(Read caption) Republican US presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney boards a media bus headed for the former Solyndra headquarters and factory in Fremont, California, on May 31.

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Mitt Romney has had a good month, numbers-wise. That does not mean he’s suddenly become the favorite for November – the 2012 presidential horse race is fairly stable and remains essentially tied. Nor does it indicate that Friday’s stinker of a jobs report by itself makes a Romney victory more probable. Many other important economic indicators will be released in the months to come.

What it means is that Mr. Romney has improved on the margins in some important underlying indicators and thus may be less vulnerable than Democrats believe to some of the Obama camp’s favorite attacks.

(Yes, that’s a mouthful. We’re trying to keep pesky political scientists from blogging that we’ve gone wild and crazy and overinterpreted a few poll results.)

For the presumptive GOP nominee, the most important trend of May might be that voters are judging him a bit more positively. In the latest Gallup results, from earlier this month, his favorable rating hit a new high of 50 percent. His unfavorable rating is 41, meaning he’s at a plus-8 in this overall measurement.

As recently as February, Romney’s Gallup favorable was only 39 percent. What’s changed is that Republicans’ views of him have gotten much more positive, rising by 22 percentage points in the past three months. He’s doing better among independents, too, with a corresponding 11-point increase.

What’s fueling this? Perhaps it’s the simple fact that he beat all his GOP rivals. Winners look better just for having won.

“Presidential candidates typically get a spike in their favorable ratings in the wake of winning the nomination,” writes Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones.

Other polls show this same movement, though not all have Romney’s personal popularity at more than 50 percent. For instance, a new Washington Post-ABC survey has Romney with a 41 percent approval rating, up from 35 percent a month ago. President Obama still leads Romney in this measure – 52 percent of Americans view the incumbent positively, according to Post/ABC numbers. But the gap is narrowing. In April Mr. Obama led in approval by 21 points. Now it’s 11, according to this survey.

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