With Barack Obama's approval rating hitting new lows in most polling it should come as no surprise that his leads over potential 2012 Republican opponents are as well. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Tim Pawlenty all have their best performances relative to Obama in this month's poll and Mitt Romney matches his strongest standing yet.
Huckabee comes the closest, trailing Obama 46-45. It's interesting to note that Huckabee's share of the Democratic vote is up from 11% a month ago to now 16%, but his share of the Republican vote is down from 87% to 83%. There's a similar trend in his favorability numbers. Although they're pretty much unchanged overall from 36/37 a month ago to 35/35 now, he's dropped from 65% of Republicans seeing him positively to 57% but has increased from 13% to 17% with Democrats. We'll want to see if this trend continues before making any definitive conclusions, but it appears there's some possibility the publicity about his commutation of Maurice Clemmons brought a side of Huckabee out in the national spotlight that made him more popular across party lines but less popular within his own.
Mitt Romney comes next closest to Obama, trailing 47-42, matching his five point deficit from a month ago. His biggest problem continues to be lagging popularity with Republicans- 51% of them view him favorably, well behind Huckabee and Sarah Palin. That's a trend that's existed in our polling for most of the year and could spell trouble when it comes to Romney's prospects of winning the nomination.
Palin has her top showing against Obama, trailing 50-44. That's quite an improvement from March when we first tested the Obama-Palin contest and found her trailing 55-35. What's interesting is that there's been almost no change in her favorability numbers over the course of the year. She was at 39/50 then and she's at 41/50 now. That's a pretty clear sign the tightening has had little to do with her and almost everything to do with Obama's declining popularity.
Finally Tim Pawlenty, who 64% of voters have no opinion about, trails 48-35.
The importance of these numbers 35 months before Obama has to stand for reelection is obviously limited but it does seem pretty clear that his electoral position is weaker than it was a year ago at this time, given that his margins against Huckabee, Romney, and Palin are less than what he won by against John McCain. The most immediate implications of this relate to how effective he'll be as a candidate surrogate in the 2010 elections- will folks in tough races want Obama to come appear for them or not?
Full results here