A new Pew Research Center survey of registered voters found that 59% think President Obama will defeat Mitt Romney in November, and 68% believe he would beat Rick Santorum.
The Pew Research Center survey found that despite the fact that he is pulling ahead of Rick Santorum nationally, the bruising Republican primary is causing Mitt Romney to lose ground to the president. Obama’s lead has grown five points in the last month and he now has a 54%-42% advantage over the Republican frontrunner. The President leads Santorum by eighteen points, 57%-39%.
Obama is also more strongly supported within his own party than any of the Republican candidates are. In a contest between Obama and Romney, 75% of Democrats and Democratic leaning voters said they will strongly support Obama. (Overall, 93% of Democrats and Democratic leaning voters will support the president). Only 63% of Republican and Republican leaning voters said they would strongly support Mitt Romney if he is the GOP nominee. (Overall, 88% of Republicans and Republican leaders will support Mitt Romney). The problem for Romney is that only 55% of Santorum supporters said that they would strongly support him in the fall.
Beyond the enthusiasm gap, there is a definite likeability gap between the candidates. Fifty six percent of registered voters held a favorable personal view of President Obama, while 29% had a favorable personal view of Mitt Romney, and 27% held a favorable personal view of Rick Santorum. The negative primary campaign that he has run has caused Mitt Romney’s personal favorable rating to completely nosedive. A majority of registered voters (51%) now hold a personally unfavorable view of the former Massachusetts governor. The view of him among Independents is also grim, as 47% hold a personally unfavorable view of the Republican primary leader.
By a margin of 58%-41%, registered voters felt that Obama understands their needs well or fairly well. In contrast, 50% of registered voters felt that Romney doesn’t understand their needs well or at all well.
All of these factors, plus a fifty percent job approval rating, add up to a strong opinion among registered voters that President Obama will win reelection. By an almost two to one margin, 59%-32%, registered voters think President Obama will defeat Mitt Romney in the fall. If Rick Santorum is the Republican nominee, the belief that Obama will win in November is even stronger, 68%-24%.
This survey isn’t a suggestion that President Obama will easily win reelection. In our current era of presidential electoral politics, there is no such thing as an easy win. What the results from Pew Research do provide is a look at political landscape that is very favorable to Obama. The gas prices issue comes and goes for every president, every summer. Recent history tells us that Obama may take a hit in the polls over the next few months, but by November, it won’t be much of an issue.
The overall picture is that of unpopular potential Republican nominees who are killing the enthusiasm for their own party through a negative and ugly slog through the primary process. Both of the top Republican candidates have negative personal approval ratings, and half the country doesn’t believe that the party’s frontrunner understands their needs.
Meanwhile, an always personally popular president is overseeing a growing economy and hardening the support among his base and Independents. Anything can happen. The country could dip back into recession, an unforeseen event could occur, but the Republican Party may not have a candidate who would be strong enough to take advantage of any potential downturn in President Obama’s political fortunes.
If nearly 60% of registered voters think that President Obama is going to win reelection, they probably believe this because they are planning to support him. This data should encourage Obama supporters and Democrats to work even harder. The point of the survey is not that Democrats should be complacent, but that they should work even harder to take advantage of this current climate. Republicans should be worried right now, because they likely have at least 6-8 more weeks of the primary process to muddle through. Their frontrunner finished third in two primaries last night, and has been unable to woo the GOP’s rank and file. The Republicans are a political party is disarray, who may be doomed by their own chaos to failure.
The tide has turned. The scene has changed, and if President Obama and his supporters work hard until November, a second term is within their grasp.