News Analysis: U.S. presidential race pits business acumen against character


by Matthew Rusling
    WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- With a week to go before the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the contest will amount to a face- off between one candidate many voters tout as having character and another perceived to have business credentials much needed in a moribund economy, experts pointed out on Monday.
    The economy -- perceived to be the forte of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney -- tops the list of concerns for most Americans amid widespread angst over high jobless rates and general dissatisfaction with the countrys economic direction. But President Barack Obama remains well-liked on a personal level, which could remain his ace in the hole and allow him to squeak by to win a second term.
    "In general, Obama is well-liked and thats a strength," said Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
    Indeed, Obamas approval rating on Monday stood at 49.6 percent in Real Clear Politics average of polls, a relatively high number considering that there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans.
    Much of the presidents popularity rests on his ability to communicate. Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, said that one of Obamas strengths is being an inspirational speaker.
A Gallup poll of U.S. registered voters released on Monday provided some insight into the candidates perceived strengths. It found that Obama has put "tremendous focus on character, drawing a contrast between himself and Romney on leadership, honesty, integrity, and compassion."
    The poll showed that 47 percent of respondents cite some sort of character trait as Obamas top strength, with 7 percent citing his personality as a positive, 6 percent believing he is level- headed or determined, and 5 percent saying he is honest or has integrity.
    Eleven percent billed oratorical skills as Obamas main strength, and the president is given the most credit by Democrats for having character strengths such as championing the poor (17 percent) and showing strong leadership (10 percent), as well as having honesty and integrity (8 percent). Republicans are most likely to give Obama credit for being a good orator (20 percent) and for having a good personality (9 percent).
   Independents, over whom both parties are fighting in a tight race, say both character and style are Obamas top strengths: 11 percent say his speaking skills are his best quality and 8 percent cite his likability.
    As for Obamas weaknesses, Mahaffee said they include seeming aloof at times from ordinary Americans, struggling to work with Congress and carrying baggage from nearly a full term as president. His healthcare overhaul and financial regulation are also unpopular with many Americans.
    For Romney, perceived strengths tend more toward his economic experience, Gallup found.
    The challenger is seen as a strong business leader, a quality that many believe would make him a good president. And a combined 23 percent of respondents cite Romneys experience as a positive trait -- including his business and political experience, in a sharp contrast to the 9 percent who point to Obamas experience.
    Mahaffee, however, said that like Obama, the wealthy former business executive also seem aloof to average Americans, some of whom perceived him as flip-flopping on some issues.
    Aside from public perceptions, analysts noted that Romney could bring to the White House a talent for hammering out deals, learned over many years as business consultant, and an ability to work across the isle with Congressional Democrats -- a bridge that Obama has found hard to cross.
    Meanwhile, Romney on Monday led nationwide by a razor-thin 1- point margin, according to Real Clear Politics polling average.
    In a Rasmussen poll released on Monday, Romney moved ahead in the key battleground state of Ohio after being tied last week.
    Based on the current projections, Romney would have to win Wisconsin if he loses Ohio in order to move into the White House, according to Rasmussen. 

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