In the 2012 Republican presidential contest, Mitt Romney is that person.
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 39 percent of adults in America view Romney very or somewhat negatively, compared to 28 percent who view the former Massachusetts governor very or somewhat positively.
“If his negatives are 35 percent and his positives aren’t at least 5 percent higher,” Atwater believed, “it’s politically fatal1.”
Far from a polling fluke, the NBC/WSJ survey has remained fairly consistent over the past six months. In fact, the only significant difference between this year’s results and the same poll’s findings in 2008 is that Romney is disliked more now, as the frontrunner and presumed nominee, than he was in ’08 as a third-place finisher in the GOP primary.
In January, 2008, Romney earned a 28 percent positive review from poll respondents—the exact same positivity rating recorded in this month’s poll. His negative responses, however, have jumped 7 percentage points since 2008, from 32 percent to 39 percent.
The question is, will Atwater’s axiom hold true? Is Romney’s political fate doomed?