New polls out Friday show President Barack Obama is beginning to incur serious damage from voters over the weak economy, with a generic Republican presidential opponent defeating him outright for the first time.
An unspecified Republican rival would defeat President Obama by 5 points, 44 to 39 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. That’s a sharp reversal from last month, when Obama held a 43 to 40 percent edge over an unnamed Republican opponent.
Obama’s slide is even more profound with the all-important independent voters who determine the outcome of most presidential elections. By a double-digit, 42 to 32 percent margin, independents told Gallup they would prefer to elect a Republican over Obama in 2012.
University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato says the bad poll numbers for Obama reflect the nation’s serious economic difficulties.
“Obama’s problem is that this economy has never really gotten better, and now we’ve hit a real soft patch,” Sabato tells Newsmax. “If it’s temporary, and the economy bounces back, Obama can go back on top. “But if economic conditions on Election Day 2012 look anything like the ones we see today, the Republican candidate should win,” he says.
The results mark a stark turnaround from the short-lived bump in the polls the president enjoyed in May following the successful mission to take out al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden. The indications of Obama’s newfound weakness will breathe new life into conservative efforts to dethrone him, just as the GOP primary field begins to find its collective stride.
“I think voters are beginning to figure out that Obama has a very, very limited view and perspective on how to deal with the economy,” American Crossroads President Steven Law tells Newsmax.TV. “And he’s not been nimble, he hasn’t pushed things well.
“And the other thing that is happening right now is that people see him as a little out of touch. Right now when the economy is really struggling, he took a clandestine trip over to Puerto Rico for political purposes.”
Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor Douglas Schoen has a less sanguine view of GOP prospects. He points out that several polls indicate that when Obama is matched up against one of the specific GOP candidates, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, he comes out on top.
“That a generic Republican is more popular with voters than the individual Republican candidates are suggests a lukewarm reaction to a mediocre GOP field. You could conclude President Obama’s best asset is the Republicans — but the reverse would also probably be true.”
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll may point to the underlying reason for Obama’s vulnerability: Voters increasingly see Obama as “owning” the economy, with its current 9.1 percent unemployment rate.
Fully 82 percent of voters surveyed in that poll now consider Obama “solely,” “mainly,” or “somewhat” responsible for the nation’s current economic conditions.
Law suggests that Obama’s activities in response to the economic downturn have failed to assure voters he’s willing or able to do what is needed to shore up the economy.
“He’s doing a lot of politicking and fundraising and speeches. He did sort of a vanity tour to the British Isles.
“And people are beginning to wonder does he really care about me? Is he concerned about this country and the impact on me? And I think voters are beginning to doubt that he really does,” says Law. Other indications from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey that the president is facing increasing political headwinds:
• The percentage of voters who believe the nation is headed in the right direction has dropped from 36 percent in May to 29 percent in June.
• President Obama’s job approval dropped from 52 percent in May to 49 percent in June.
• Those who approve of his handling of foreign policy dropped from 57 percent in May to 50 percent in June, indicated the bin Laden bounce is over.
• In May, 33 percent said they felt very positively toward Obama. That dropped to 27 percent in June.
• The percentage of those who feel very negatively toward Obama jumped sharply from 18 percent in May to 24 percent in June.
Comments Sabato: “This just proves what some of us have consistently said about presidential elections involving an incumbent . . . If people are doing better financially, they almost always reelect the incumbent, or the incumbent’s party. And if they aren’t, they will punish the incumbent by voting for the other side — assuming the opposition party has nominated a reasonable, mainstream individual.”
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had some good news for the president, however. Despite the spate of negative economic reports in recent weeks, the percent who approve of his handling of the economy actually edged upward, from 37 to 41 percent. That’s still way below his February 2009 high in that category of 56 percent approval on the economy.
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