Mitt Romney is running virtually even with President Obama in most national surveys lately. But polling data shows he's still a remarkably unpopular candidate, one Democratic pollster reminded viewers on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show Sunday.
Cornell Belcher, who is polling for President Obama's campaign, put Romney's recent slight polling uptick in context. He noted that most recent major-party nominees challenging an incumbent have at some point led in the polls.
"Dole took a lead on Clinton. Kerry took a lead on Bush," Belcher said. "In none of these polls have we seen [Romney] taking a statistically significant lead in most of the pubic polling."
Host Melissa Harris-Perry seized on those remarks. "Say that again, in case folks missed that," she asked Belcher.
In response, Belcher broke things down in a bit more detail.
"Especially when the primary season starts to wrap up, and the base of their party starts to rally around them, you've seen them take a lead," he said, referring again to post challengers like Dole and Kerry. "Romney has never sort of taken a significnat lead in any of the polls. And even in NBC's polling, or CNN's polling right now, he's still down a couple points."
Belcher added that the underlying problem for Romney is not reflected in the head-to-head numbers, but rather in his personal favorability ratings.
"He's what we call underwater right now," Belcher said. "Meaning his [unfavorables] are higher than his favorables right now, and actually at a historic level. So he goes into the convention as one of the most unpopular nominees in modern political history, which is a real problem."
Indeed, an NBC News poll (pdf) released this week found 38% of respondents with a favorable view of Romney, and 44% with an unfavorable view.