BOSTON (CBS) – Mitt Romney will pick up a big endorsement from President George H.W. Bush on Thursday, but will that help his likeability?

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A new poll shows likeability could be problem for Romney, and in politics these days, that is a problem you can ill afford to have.

The state of the economy and other issues still matter. But, voters like to like their president, and right now, that’s a part of this contest where Mitt Romney is lagging.

In show business and in politics, being liked is half the battle, or maybe more when it comes to President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.

If you’ve noticed the president showcasing his personal appeal a bit more in recent months, that’s no accident.

In national polling by the Washington Post and ABC News, President Obama’s personal unfavorablilty rating, which was 18 percent when he took office, peaked at 49 percent last December.

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But in the latest survey, that toxic number is down to 43 percent, with a majority percent viewing him favorably (53%), matching his best showing in nearly two years.

That same poll found Romney’s unfavorable rating has soared to an all-time high, leaving him 16 points underwater in the personal approval derby.

Trading quips with comedians (like he did with Jay Leno Wednesday night) may help warm up romney’s image, but he’ll need more than that to overcome the damage done by a nasty GOP race and stories like the one about his plan to build an elevator for his cars inside his new luxury home in suburban San Diego.

It’s just not a good time in our political culture to be seen as so rich that you can afford a split-level garage with a car elevator in it, and that’s a chronic problem Romney will have to overcome.

Should likeability be such a big factor? That’s debatable, but it is. Keeping that part of the race competitive could be one of Romney’s biggest challenges.

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