Despite 40% job approval, Obama still leading (and in some cases stomping) GOP 2012 field

Mitt Romney

With all the talk about President Obama’s declining job approval rating, few media outlets are reporting that Obama is also leading the entire field of 2012 Republican candidates in polls. A generic ballot poll is one where one candidate is tested against an unnamed opponent to test that candidate’s strength against an ideology or party as a whole. It’s like asking do you like this Democratic candidate’s ideas, or what you’re hearing from the other party?

On the generic ballot, Obama is leading in every poll except Rasmussen’s, which has credibility problems. The average lead with Rasmussen is just half a point. Without them it’s three points. In fact Rasmussen is the only poll to show a generic Republican candidate leading Obama on RCP. NBC News/Wall Street Journal, USA Today/Gallup, and Pew Research all have Obama leading by 3-4 points and none of those pollsters had the problems in 2010 that Rasmussen had.

Obama’s average lead against Rick Perry is 1.5 points (+3 without Rasmussen), and +4.3 if you use Gallup’s “national adults” result instead of registered voters.

It’s half a point against Romney, who will most likely be the nominee. As Glenn Greenwald says often, Republican voters love to flirtwith the extremists early on, but always settle with the most electable candidate. They want to win.

Yet again, if you use national adults instead of RV from Gallup, a 3 point Romney lead turns into a 1 point Obama lead and the average increases from 0.5 to 1.25. Use whichever number suits you, so long as you understand the difference between the two.

Those are the GOP’s top candidates. The rest would get stomped. Obama’s lead over Michele Bachmann is 7.2 points. It’s14.5 over Sarah Palin, 4.3 over Ron Paul, 10 over Herman Cain, 14.7 over Newt Gingrich, and 14 over John Huntsman.

There’s a long time between now and the GOP primaries and even longer before the 2012 general election, and a lot can happen between now and that. Things that could drag Obama even further down in job approval, and things that could give him a permanent boost. This is all speculation until after the 2012 GOP convention, but not all things are unclear.

The only two viable candidates as of today are Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Perry’s surge in the polls has largely come at the expense of Michele Bachmann whose support apparently wasn’t real. She’s now in the 4-3% range and pretty much out of contention. That means Perry’s support could vanish just as quickly and easily when the primaries begin. Romney is the only candidate at or near the top of polls over a meaningful amount of time.

People who assume that Obama is toasted because of his poor job approval rating aren’t paying attention to what’s going on and why. The story these numbers tell is that the public isn’t happy with the job that Obama is doing, but they don’t seem to care for the GOP alternatives either. It’s possible that Obama would win reelection – and do so fairly easily depending on his opponent – even with a negative job approval rating.

That can be proven even hypothetically. If a candidate’s job approval rating were zero, he or she could still win in a landslide if their opponent was Osama bin Laden or Hitler. Likewise, a person could lose with a 100% job approval rating against Jesus Christ.

Conservatives need to understand that if things play out in 2012 as they are today, Republicans are not going to win the White House. There is still work to do on that side of the fence and they really need to prepare themselves for the possibility that Barack Obama is going to be a two term President, albeit a mediocre one.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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