Romney's challenge: 1/3 of voters have no opinion of him yet

(CBS News) As Mitt Romney prepares to receive the nomination for president from the Republican Party, a new CBS News poll shows that he faces considerable challenges, creating even more urgency for the former Massachusetts governor - given this week's abbreviated Republican convention - to make a favorable impression upon voters.

The poll released Tuesday shows that, among registered voters, more have an unfavorable view than favorable of Romney - 36 percent to 31 percent. (President Obama's numbers also reflect a slight edge of unfavorable over favorable, 44 to 41.) And yet, after months of a contentious Republican primary season, nearly one-third (32 percent) of voters still don't know enough about Romney to from an opinion.

Among them: 37 percent of independent voters, the very people that Romney needs to win over in order to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

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"You know, this just shows what a bubble that we're in," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer told "CBS This Morning" host Charlie Rose. "We think everybody is following every, you know, move and turn in this election. One-third of Americans do not yet have an opinion [on Romney].

"That's why, Charlie, this convention is so important and why everybody has an eye on this weather. Because look at the choice that they're going to face here. What if this storm barrels into New Orleans and there is the death and destruction and Americans are in peril?"

With Monday's convention schedule swept aside by concerns over Tropical Storm Isaac, the Republicans will start in earnest Tuesday officially nominating Romney, and hearing speeches by his wife, Ann, and a keynote address by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

But Isaac, which is predicted to become a hurricane as it makes landfall near New Orleans - seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area - may be a game-changer again.

"Behind the scenes, people here are talking about 'What are we going to do?'" Schieffer said. "Should we cancel more sessions of this convention?' The one thing they're even talking about, if it comes to a worst-case scenario, [is] just having Mitt Romney make a speech to the American people. The optics of a split-screen of people in peril over here, and people at a convention having fun, is something they really don't want to face up to.

"You almost wonder if [Romney] doesn't feel kind of snake-bit," Schieffer said. "You had all these, you know, distractions coming up to this convention, and now we've got the storm that's got everybody focused on that.

"It's harder and harder for them to get their message out, and they've got to get the conversation going, at some point, about who Mitt Romney is and what it is he plans to do."

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"CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell asked Schieffer about other poll findings that indicate half of Americans, particularly middle-class voters, do not think Romney cares about their problems.

"I think there's a lot of pressure on Ann Romney right now," Schieffer said, "because again, this is kind of an interesting thing, isn't it? Americans think that Barack Obama understands their problems [better than Romney], but they think Mitt Romney - who doesn't understand their problems - has a better plan to get jobs and get the economy going again."

Schieffer suggests Americans themselves will face a challenge in getting to know Romney better because of the candidate's reticence when talking about personal matters, his family and his faith.

"He's kind of a private person, isn't he? I mean, when you think that he grew up, his father was a governor, his mother ran for the Senate, he's been running for office since back when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate. And yet he's still not going to give you very much from that emotional standpoint."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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