While it’s far too early to place any value on hypothetical match-ups in a presidential election that’s 18 months away, some preliminary polling numbers are starting to raise eyebrows and interest in the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes.
Some polls released into the public domain do little to enlighten or inform about public opinions because of small or meaningless sampling methodologies or survey techniques. Others, however, provide a snapshot of informed opinion that can influence future outcomes.
A question on the minds of Democrats and Republicans alike is: “Is President Obama vulnerable in 2012?” Since the 1932 Great Depression era election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two incumbent presidents have been beaten by opposing candidates in a general election. Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush’s 1992 defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton stand out as the only two examples of incumbent presidents losing a November election during that time span. (Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal ended his 1968 re-election candidacy during the primary campaign.)
While Pres. Barack Obama continues to enjoy fairly high personal approval ratings from likely 2012 voters, his policy agenda doesn’t command the same level of support. In fact, looking at the trend line from the Rasmussen Reports tracking polls, conducted daily since the presidential inauguration, one sees that Mr. Obama’s overall approval rating has been under 50 percent every day since Feb. 18, while his disapproval score has consistently exceeded 50 percent post-Feb. 10.
These numbers might not mean much taken in and of themselves because Obama won’t be facing a “stay or go” plebiscite in November 2012. Instead, he will square off with a Republican challenger and, perhaps, an independent entry with a stark ideological bent.
During the month of March, Rasmussen conducted a series of presidential ballot test studies that included 10 different hypothetical GOP nominees. The comparison surveys all sampled at least 1,000 (and in some cases 2,000) likely voters and were conducted during the March 6-31 period. The sampling margin of error for surveys of 2,000 is +/- 2 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence; the error rate for surveys of 1,000 is +/- 3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.
Interestingly, regardless of who becomes Obama’s Republican opponent, the data shows he garners support between 49 and 42 percent of the respondents. The match-ups project Arkansas former Gov. Mike Huckabee to be running dead even with the president (43-43 percent), while Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney trails 40-45 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is down 34-42 percent and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour lags behind by exactly that same percentage. As you have seen, all of the aforementioned Republicans trail by single-digit margins. GOP potential candidates down double-digits include: former vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (38-48 percent), Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (35-45 percent), Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (31-41 percent), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (37-49 percent), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (32-45 percent), and businessman, newspaper columnist and Tea Party activist Herman Cain (25-43 percent).
At this early point in the election cycle, there are few definitive conclusions to draw from the president’s middling approval ratings and his less than dominant showing in these hypothetical horse races. However, there is also little to suggest that Mr. Obama will have the luxury of running a relaxed, Rose Garden re-election strategy either.
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