Republicans know that they have a lackluster field of presidential candidates as they inch toward the 2012 primary season. Their only hope for defeating President Obama short of an act of God is to drive up his negatives, but a new AP/GfK poll shows that not only are Obama’s approval ratings remaining steady at 53%, but an incredible 84% said that the president is a very likable person.
The numbers in the AP/GfK poll show an electorate that is still not happy with the direction that country is going in. 62% of those surveyed said that the country is going in the wrong direction, which is a five point increase since the last poll was taken. 90% of respondents said that the economy is very important to them.
This would appear to set up a good environment for Republicans to saddle Obama with the economy and drive his approval ratings down, but something very interesting happens when you look at Obama’s approval numbers. They aren’t going down. Obama’s job approval rating is still at 53% which is where it has been since January. Obama’s personal approval rating was 59%, which is a four point increase since November. A majority of Americans (50%) believe that Obama should be reelected.
On the question of the economy, respondents were split within the margin of error about Obama’s job performance on the issue. 47% of Americans favored Obama’s handling of the economy and 52% and did not. (The poll’s margin of error was 4.2%). When Americans were asked if they were happy with their lives, 80% said yes. Of course this is the Queen Mother of loaded poll questions, as very people are going to admit that they are miserable sad sacks just trying get through another pointless day of earth bound existence.
The one point that emerged from this poll is that America really, really likes Barack Obama. When asked to evaluate how well Obama understands the big issues facing America, 68% believed that he understood them at least somewhat well. 60% believed that Obama understands the problems of ordinary Americans. 61% believed that he will keep America safe, and 59% thought that he understands their problems. 57% called Obama a strong leader, and most tellingly a whopping 84% said Obama is a likable person.
It is tough for a lot of people to get 84% of their friends and family to call them likable, much less the entire country. Needless to say, these are not the numbers of a future one term president.
Republicans face a twofold problem when it comes to defeating Obama in 2012. First this president is still really, really personally popular, and despite our lofty presumptions in the world of political science about the “rational voter” most voters vote for the candidate that they personally like best.
The second problem that Republicans face is that their potential 2012 field is loaded with unlikable people. Mitt Romney’s favorability has slid to 41%. Mike Huckabee is the most popular Republican, and his popularity has dropped 4 points to 45%. Newt Gingrich has more people who dislike him (42%) than like him (40%), and then there is Sarah Palin. Palin is in a class all by herself. She has lost 7% off her approval rating. She is now down to 39%, and her unfavorable rating has gone up 8 points to 57%.
In short, the Republicans are armed with a bunch of known also rans who aren’t likable enough to defeat a very well liked incumbent president. After seeing how quickly voters have turned on them after their 2010 midterm election victory, Republicans know that they are in for a tough time in 2012.
The Republicans only strategy for 2012 is to drive up Obama’s negatives. This is the purpose of the obstructionist Party of No, but so far it isn’t working.
Until the jobs all come back and there is a chicken in every pot, Obama will still hover around 50%, but even that small majority would be more than enough easily defeat any of the slugs that the GOP may be forced to run against him in 2012.
The Republicans have become the political kids who live on Elm Street. Every time they doze off with an episode of Touched By An Angel on the TV, and start to dream of a President Huckabee, or glory be a President Palin, Obama bounces into their dream and delivers a second inaugural about universal health care, a growing economy, clean energy and the lowest unemployment rate since the Clinton years.
For the Republicans, 2012 has turned into a Nightmare on K Street.
One, two, Obama’s coming for you.