Just 41 percent of voters say Obama deserves re-election to a second term, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
The poll also found that Obama’s approval rating has plummeted to an all-time low — just 42 percent. That compares with 48 percent of voters who disapprove.
Contrary to the normal pattern of improved presidential approval during military actions abroad, Obama’s fortunes with voters are sagging despite the ongoing military action against Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
His approval has dropped 4 percentage points in just the past month, Quinnipiac reports.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, tells Newsmax that Obama’s messaging on the military action in Libya may help explain his lack of bounce in the polls.
“It appeared haphazard, not fully thought out, and the public and Congress were not properly prepared for military engagement,” Sabato tells Newsmax. “So it is no surprise that Obama’s ratings didn’t rise. Maybe that will happen if all ends well — if all ends well.”
Karl Rove, former George W. Bush adviser, told Fox News Wednesday that while one poll doesn’t make or break a presidency “these are troubling trends in the short run” for the president. He too suggested the president’s “muddled” management of the crisis in Libya may have contributed to his flagging approval numbers.
Quinnipiac’s polling indicates that, if an election were held today, President Obama would finish in a dead heat with a generic GOP opponent. That means when voters are asked to choose between Obama and an unknown Republican in a hypothetical match-up, they break roughly 50-50 for and against Obama.
A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, noted that Obama has experienced political ups and downs before.
“President Obama's poll numbers rose significantly after he engaged with Congress during December's lame duck session, winning surprise legislative victories — not only approval of the START treaty and the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, but also the extension of the Bush tax cuts. He then united the nation with a powerful speech following the tragic shootings in Tucson, Ariz.,” she tells Newsmax.
“Since then,” Stoddard adds, “he has taken a pass at tackling entitlement reforms, refused to participate in budget negotiations on Capitol Hill to avert a government shutdown, and initiated a military intervention even he seemed reluctant to commit to in Libya.
“It isn't surprising that new disapproval is showing up in a war-weary public focused intensely upon the fragile economic recovery and the battle to reduce our deficits and debt,” she says.
There are some indications Obama’s weak poll numbers could reflect a deeper problem: Growing public discomfort with a leadership style that has been variously characterized as nuanced, above-the-fray, and intellectual.
According to the Gallup polling organization, 73 percent of voters viewed Obama as a strong and decisive leader two years ago. By March 2010, the leadership number had dropped but was still a respectable 60 percent.
But a new Gallup poll released Wednesday shows that only 52 percent of Americans now describe Obama as a strong and decisive leader. Nearly half, 47 percent, say that he is not strong and decisive.
Another ominous indicator: Only 36 percent of voters say Obama has a clear plan for solving the nation’s problems.
These results are no doubt sobering for a White House political team that is expected to announce the president’s candidacy for re-election formally sometime in the next three weeks.
Gallup’s news for Obama isn’t all bad, however. It’s daily tracking poll shows him with 49 percent approval. Just over 60 percent of voters say Obama is honest and trustworthy. And 57 percent agree that he understands the problems most Americans face on a daily basis.
Like Rove, Sabato cautions Republicans ought not assume the president’s handling of the Libya crisis has caused him long-term political damage.
“Joining the words ‘poll’ and ‘long-term’ is oxymoronic,” Sabato quips. “Polls and public judgments of presidents are ephemeral and transient.”
But veteran conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway, founder and president of The Polling Company Inc./WomanTrend, tells Newsmax that Obama cannot escape the message voters have been sending since the November midterms.
“I think essentially, Americans can do the math. They know that he has presided over chronic joblessness and spiraling deficits. You can run on monosyllabic terms like hope and change just once. When you run for re-election, you have to face your record.
“It may be the age of Obama,” she adds, “but it’s also the age of instantaneous communications and the instantaneous expectations that go along with it: That you will perform deftly, and your results will be produced immediately.
“The other thing is, when people said in 2008, ‘Oh, he gives a great speech,’ I think that was the floor and not the ceiling. So he’s failed really even to reach the Obama standard.”
Conway says that polls indicate the constituencies who supported Obama in 2008 — women, independents, young people, seniors — are beginning to question his leadership. “People are reminded of the failure of the Obama presidency every time they fill up the gas tank or peruse the want ads,” Conway says . “It’s like one week they want to cure cancer, the next week they’re going to build a national light-rail system, the next week they’re gonna bomb Libya, the next week they’re going to do energy independence — it's like the living State of the Union.”
Although acknowledging that things could change, Conway predicted that Obama will face an uphill battle for re-election in 2012.
“We are so far past buyer’s remorse, I think people are on their way to product recall,” she says. “If it’s a two-person race, it will be a real challenge for Obama to be re-elected.”
Obama’s supporters continue to express confidence that his political talents will enable him to prevail over any GOP challenger in 2012.
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