Mitt Romney could have a winning argument that incorporates his messages on both the economy and federal spending. A new poll from the Tarrance Group, a Republican-affiliated polling firm, for Public Notice shows most Americans believe increased federal spending has not helped the overall economy or their own economic situation.

Of the 1,005 likely voters polled, 52 percent said federal spending has hurt the overall economy, compared to 26 percent who say it has helped and 18 percent who say it has made difference. On the question of how federal spending has affected their "personal financial situation," 49 percent said it made no difference, while 35 percent said it has hurt and only 14 percent have said it has helped.

The survey also shows that a majority of the independents (55 percent), seniors (54 percent), and married women (59 percent) have said federal spending hurts the economy.

These results suggest that Romney, who has made the economy and President Barack Obama's handling of it the central issue of his campaign for president, might do well in the final weeks of campaigning and in the upcoming debates to connect the lackluster economy with Obama's record of increasing federal spending. The argument would be good politics for Romney and would also have the benefit of expanding the Republican's message from a narrow one--the economy is bad, and Obama has not fixed it--to a broader debate about federal spending, entitlement costs, and the role of the federal government.

Such an argument would target Obama's own rationale for a second term: The economic recovery has only just begun, and that the president needs four more years to see it through. The poll suggests Americans don't believe this and might be receptive to a direct and fact-based rebuttal of Obama's claims.

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