Poll: Economy Political Threat to Obama Re-Election but Still Ahead of Republican Rivals

You can’t beat somebody with nobody. But you can beat somebody. Somebody named Barack Obama. That seems to be the gist of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that shows Obama is increasingly politically vulnerable due to the still-ailing economy — but GOPers still way behind..

And another take on it by a crew of analysts suggests Obama’s sagging numbers are due to him veering towards more partisan rheteoric — a move cheered on by the Democratic party’s left and liberal talk show hosts but apparently undercutting Obama’s gains since December with independent voters.

And is it getting to Obama? He seemed to loose his cool with a reporter in Texas (see video below).

Poll details:

Deepening economic pessimism has pushed down President Obama’s approval rating to a near record low, but he holds an early advantage over prospective 2012 rivals in part because of widespread dissatisfaction with Republican candidates, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

In the survey, 47 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, down seven points since January. Half of all Americans disapprove of his job performance, with 37 percent saying they “strongly disapprove,” nearly matching the worst level of his presidency.

Gallup has found the same thing: Obama is at a low point now matching the worst level of his presidency. When you have two polls it is a trend and partisans can dismiss it the usual way (the way is always to question the methodology of a poll you don’t like — a technique you will see all the time on D and R weblogs).

Driving the downward movement in Obama’s standing are renewed concerns about the economy and fresh worry about rising prices, particularly for gasoline. Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse, the highest percentage to say so in more than two years.

The toll on Obama is direct: 57 percent disapprove of the job the president is doing dealing with the economy, tying his highest negative rating when it comes to the issue. And the president is doing a bit worse among politically important independents.

As we’ve said here many times: watch the independents since they most often decide elections.

If Obama is running into headwinds, however, his potential Republican opponents face serious problems, as well. Less than half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are satisfied with the field of GOP candidates.

AND:

When Republicans and GOP-leaners were asked who they would vote for in a primary or caucus, only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney registered in double digits, with 16 percent. More than double that number expressed no opinion and an additional 12 percent volunteered “none” or “no one.”

Businessman Donald Trump (8 percent), former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (6 percent) and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (5 percent) were the only other names volunteered by more than 2 percent of respondents.

In hypothetical matchups for the general election, the president runs ahead of all seven potential GOP rivals tested in the new poll.

If the election were held now, Romney and Huckabee would mount the stiffest challenges, trailing Obama by four and six percentage points respectively, among all Americans as well as among registered voters.

Obama has double-digit leads over the other five tested — a dozen points against Trump and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), 15 against Newt Gingrich and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and 17 points over Palin.

The Post then states the obvious: Obama is vulnerable.

Translation: the GOP has an opportunity.

So far its field doesn’t look like they can take advantage of it. The usual response is that once a campaign begins they can cut Obama down to size and pull out all stops. But Obama will be pulling out all stops as well. And unless his party’s liberal wing puts up a serious (read that to mean not Dennis Kucinich) challenger Obama can focus on re-election while GOPers focus on knocking out their competitors.

But is there another reason why Obama seems to be tanking in the polls? MSNBC’s crack political analysis team of Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Ali Weinberg, and Carrie Dann ask if Obama’s highly partisan speech last week has backfired:

A new Washington Post/ABC poll — which shows President Obama’s approval down to 47%, and with 44% believing the U.S. economy is getting worse (when employment is actually on the rise) — suggests that the climbing gas prices have soured the public’s mood, big time. “Almost eight in 10 say inflation in their area is getting worse, and more than seven in 10 say higher gasoline prices is causing financial hardship at home,” the Post writes. But this poll, as well as the Gallup surveys, also seems to confirm that the president’s speech last week might not have played well. For one thing, and this is true going back to the ’08 campaign, Obama usually doesn’t get rewarded when he comes off as too partisan (even though the left loves it). More importantly, last week’s speech was on a topic — the deficit/debt — that most Americans don’t find as important as the economy/jobs. And in the Post/ABC poll, Obama took a hit with independents, with 55% of them disapproving of his job.

And they suggest watching Obama’s tone today:

So as Obama talks about the deficit and debt today in Northern Virginia… it’s worth asking: What will his tone be? And will his focus be exclusively on the deficit/debt, or will he place a bigger emphasis on the overall economy? (Speaking of tone, don’t miss Obama lecturing a Dallas reporter after the interview had concluded, “Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview.” The combative tone in was mostly about NASA’s decision to NOT give a Shuttle to Houston. Watch the entire interview; it’s a classic example of someone allowing irritation to show. As the old deodorant commercial once quipped — don’t let us see him sweat.)

Here’s Obama losing his cool (it’s never a smart idea when Obama or Sarah Palin complains to a journalist or crowd about being challenged by the media):
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