Two Polls Show Obama’s Numbers Going South

Two new polls show President Barack Obama’s approval numbers are going south — numbers that should give more impetus to GOPers running for President and will likely spur Obama and Democrats to accelerate a defenses of the administration and look for ways to hammer Republicans.

The Washington Post reports on a poll indicating Obama is suffering from gas pains:

Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Increasingly pessimistic views of Obama’s performance on the economy — and on the federal budget deficit — come despite a steadily brightening employment picture and other signs of economic improvement, and they highlight the political sensitivity of rising gas prices.

The potential political con­sequences are clear, with the ­rising public disapproval reversing some of the gains the president had made in hypothetical general-election matchups against possible Republican rivals for the White House. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) now both run about evenly with Obama. The findings come just five weeks after Obama appeared to be getting a boost from the improving economy.

Gas prices are a main culprit: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation at the pump, where rising prices have already hit hard. Just 26 percent approve of his work on the issue, his lowest rating in the poll. Most Americans say higher prices are already taking a toll on family finances, and nearly half say they think that prices will continue to rise, and stay high.

Friday’s employment report showed a gain of 227,000 jobs in the past month, continuing an upward trend and offering the White House something positive to point to. Still, the survey — conducted Wednesday through Saturday — finds 59 percent of Americans giving Obama negative ratings on the economy, up from early last month. Now, 50 percent give him intensely low marks, the most yet in a Post-ABC News poll, and a jump of nine percentage points.

The negative movement has also stalled what had been a gradual increase since the fall in the president’s overall approval rating. In the new poll, 46 percent approve of the way Obama is handling his job; 50 percent disapprove. That’s a mirror image of his 50 to 46 positive split in early February. The downshift is particularly notable among independents — 57 percent of whom now disapprove — and among white people without college degrees, with disapproval among this group now topping approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.

Meanwhile, an ABC News/New York Times poll finds Obama’s approval rating is at a danger zone for an incumbent seeking re-election:

Despite improving job growth and an extended Republican primary fight dividing his would-be opponents, President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

At a time of rising gas prices, heightened talk of war with Iran and setbacks in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama’s approval rating dropped substantially in recent weeks, the poll found, with 41 percent of respondents expressing approval of the job he is doing and 47 percent saying they disapprove — a dangerous position for any incumbent seeking re-election.

The poll provides a statistical reminder of how unsettled and unpredictable this year’s political landscape remains. Just one month ago, Mr. Obama reached a critical benchmark by winning approval from 50 percent of Times/CBS News poll respondents, his re-election prospects lifting along with confidence that the nation was finally emerging from the aftermath of the Great Recession.

On the other hand, when voters look at Obama compared to the GOPers who aspire for his job, he doesn’t do that poorly.

Mr. Obama’s approval numbers measure his performance against expectations. But elections are choices between candidates, and on that score, he showed greater resilience in the poll.

In a hypothetical matchup against his most likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama had a 47 percent to 44 percent advantage, a statistical dead heat given the poll’s margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points. Against Rick Santorum, the president drew 48 percent compared with 44 percent. In both cases, the difference between the candidates was slightly smaller than it was last month.

In the head-to-head matchups, Mr. Obama also maintained much of the advantage he had built in the last year among important constituencies, including women, although he lost some support among women over the past month, even as the debate raged over birth control insurance coverage.

Americans are still expressing confidence that the economy is staying the same or getting better, with those who believe that outnumbering those who view the economy as getting worse by nearly three to one. (Then again, 75 percent view the nation’s financial picture as “fairly bad” or “very bad.”)

The poll also gives further evidence that Republicans have shot themselves in the foot due to the way they’ve handled issues involving women (and this would include the feeble comments of Republicans during the Rush Limbaugh fiasco):

Mr. Obama appears to be retaining much of his gains among important demographic groups, erasing inroads that Republicans made in 2010, especially among women. But his falling approval rating in the last month extended to his handling of both the economy and foreign policy, the poll found. And his weakening position cut across all major demographic groups, even among those with which he has kept an edge over his Republican challengers: independents, moderates, college graduates and younger voters..

The bottom line?

The Republicans are poised to offer a flawed candidate for the Presidency.

The Democrats will offer a flawed candidate for the Presidency.