The latest Gallup Poll finds that if the election was held today President Barack Obama would lose to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and be tied with Texas Governor Rick Perry — a sign of Obama’s increasing vulnerability and the GOP’s increasing opportunity.
So the big drama that will unfold quickly will be whether Obama can decrease his vulnerability and whether Republicans will seize — or blow — their opportunity:
President Barack Obama is closely matched against each of four possible Republican opponents when registered voters are asked whom they would support if the 2012 presidential election were held today. Mitt Romney leads Obama by two percentage points, 48% to 46%, Rick Perry and Obama are tied at 47%, and Obama edges out Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann by two and four points, respectively.
These prospective election ballots — measured Aug. 17-18, well over a year before the Nov. 6, 2012, election — indicate that the race for president at this point is generally competitive, with voters fairly evenly divided in their preference for giving Obama a second term or electing a Republican candidate. Even though the four Republican candidates tested have varying degrees of name recognition, they all fare roughly the same.
Gallup’s generic presidential ballot — measured six times this year — shows a close race between Obama and a generic “Republican presidential candidate,” although there have been survey-to-survey variations on this measure, with the Republican candidate leading in June and July.
And to analyists who suggest Obama isn’t really doing that bad, Gallup has this tidbit:
President Obama’s job approval rating is hovering around the 40% mark. This is below the rating that any of the six incumbent presidents re-elected since Eisenhower has had at the time of the presidential election. However, in August of the year before they were re-elected, Ronald Reagan (43%) and Bill Clinton (46%) were both below 50%. Obama’s position of rough parity against leading GOP candidates shows that more Americans at the moment say they would vote for Obama than approve of the job he is doing — perhaps a reflection of the continuing lack of a strong front-runner on the Republican side.
Political spinners on the Dem side will say Obama’s cup is half full. But the reality is, the cup isn’t half full due to the reeling economy, Obama’s seeming inability to get his message out and live up to original expectations about his ability to communicate with the public and dominate the political scene, plus continued rumblings from Democratic Party liberals that once again some of them will decide to punish their party by sitting out the election or by mount a primary challenge to Obama — steps that would most likely undermine Obama’s election and help conservatives solidify what past Democratic voters’ have helped institute, a conservative Supreme Court. There is no sign that a primary challenge to Obama would do anything except weaken him and virtually no chance that a new Democratic challenger currently on the scene could beat the GOP in 2012 in a race for the White House.
The poll suggests that aside from outside events and an a near miraculous economic upturn, Obama’s best hope is that the GOP grab defeat from the jaws of victory — something some Republicans establishment types are starting to fear might happen if the party nominates someone who might please Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party and turn off many other American voters, particularly independent voters. Even conservatives are concerned by the existing GOP field.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.