Voters give President Obama virtually nothing over Republican Mitt Romney when it comes to issues of character, despite a barrage of Obama campaign ads aimed at raising public doubts about whether Romney could be trusted in the White House.
Less than 100 days before the election, a string of public opinion polls consistently show that the public views both presidential contenders as strong, honest leaders.
Such a snapshot is particularly troubling for Obama, given that his campaign has dumped more than $100 million into television advertisements in battleground states -- roughly three-quarters of it on attack ads against Romney.
The latest poll released by The Hill on Monday gives Romney a 4 percentage point advantage over Obama on leadership, a 3-point lead on "shares our values" and a 2-point cushion on trustworthiness, numbers within or close to the poll's margin of error.
Some analysts said the Obama campaign miscalculated whether the public would embrace their portrayal of Romney as an out-of-touch corporate executive who outsourced American jobs for the sake of profits while he was head of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm.
"The Bain attacks may have backfired and reinforced Romney's solid business image," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. "When you throw mud it often splashes back on you. That attack has run its course."
A USA Today/Gallup poll released last week showed that 57 percent of voters believe Obama possesses presidential leadership qualities, but 54 percent said the same thing about Romney. In that same survey, 63 percent said Romney's business background would help him deal with the ailing economy.
Those numbers have even Obama's supporters questioning his laser-like focus on Romney's time at Bain.
"I really do wonder if Obama put too many eggs in the Bain basket with so much time before the election," one Democratic strategist told The Washington Examiner. "There's a fine line between defining your opponent and over-saturation, and what we may be seeing here is the latter."
In addition to claiming Romney outsourced American jobs, Obama's team has hammered the former Massachusetts governor for sheltering his own fortune in overseas tax havens.
Obama is hoping that by the time voters head to the polls in November, they'll see Romney as an elitist unable to relate to their concerns -- much as President George W. Bush successfully defined Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
But Democrats are divided over how the Bain bludgeoning is playing at this point in Obama's re-election bid.
"It's a mixed bag," said Democratic strategist Doug Schoen. "People still have doubts about Romney personally but see him as a better economic manager. But I don't see evidence that Romney can just go negative and win -- he needs a plan for more jobs."
Without much progress on the jobs front, Obama has opted to double down on the argument that allowing Romney to take the reins now would imperil fragile economic gains.
"We've seen that Mitt Romney is a symbol of what's wrong with our economy," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. "In my judgment, that message is having a real and serious impact in swing states."