If you want to understand why President Obama has run such a scorchingly negative campaign, consider this: In a new poll conducted for The Hill, only 40 percent of likely voters said they felt Obama deserves a second term. Fifty-two percent said he did not.

Republicans complain about the tone and tenor of Obama’s months of character attacks on GOP nominee Mitt Romney, but the Hill poll shows us exactly what Obama’s internal polling has likely been telling him for months. There is no chance of the incumbent winning if the election is about him. So it needs to be about somebody else.

Romney may eventually oblige Obama and the Democrats. When he walks out on the stage at the first debate, voters dissatisfied with Obama may yet decide that the former Massachusetts governor really is the vampire tax-cheat who consigns grandmothers to death by cancer that the Blue Team says he is.

But here’s the problem for the president: With the election 63 days away, Romney is still alive.

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