Barack Obama continues to be unpopular in Ohio, sporting a 42% approval rating with 49% of voters disapproving of him. But speaking to the weakness of the current front runners for the Republican nomination in 2012, Obama leads all four of them in hypothetical reelection contests.
Against Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney Obama would face a closer race in the state than in 2008, when he won it by 4 points. He leads Huckabee just 45-44 and Romney 44-42. If the Republicans were to nominate either Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin Obama would have a more comfortable lead- it's 47-41 over Gingrich and 49-42 over Palin.
The reason for the disconnect between Obama's poor approval numbers and his leads over all the GOP hopefuls? The Republican candidate field is simply very weak. Only Huckabee is rated favorably by voters in the state, with 41% of voters viewing him favorably to 36% with an unfavorable opinion. Romney is only slightly unpopular with 36% of voters holding a positive view of him to 39% with a negative one. But Gingrich and Palin are strongly disliked by voters in the state, posting favorability spreads of 30/51 and 37/52 respectively.
There are two major places where the Republicans fall short that allow Obama to maintain leads over them. The first is with Democrats- only 71% of them approve of Obama, suggesting the ability for Republicans to make in roads there. And they did show some ability to do that in last month's election- PPP's final poll of the Senate race found Rob Portman taking 22% of the Democratic vote. None of these Republicans come anywhere close to matching that though- Huckabee and Palin take 11% of Democrats, Romney gets 10%, and Gingrich only 9%. Obama has some vulnerability with the more conservative wing of his party but at this point none of these GOP hopefuls are really in a position to take advantage of that.
The other place where the Republicans under perform is with independents. PPP's final poll for the 2010 election found both Portman- a 37 point advantage- and John Kasich- an 18 point lead- cleaning up with them. And Obama continues to be pretty unpopular with them, at a 40/54 approval breakdown. But for all of that Obama basically earns a draw with independents, trailing Romney by 6 points and Huckabee by 3 points with them while leading Gingrich by 2 points and Palin by 3 points with them.
There are more Democrats than Republicans in Ohio so for a GOP Presidential candidate to take the state in 2012 is going to take either a) more crossover support from Democrats than this or b) a much wider advantage with independents than this.
Obviously 2012 is a long way off and a lot will happen between now and then. But this is a pretty low time for Obama's Presidency, fresh off his party getting annihilated in the midterm election. He probably ought to be trailing in a place like Ohio right now and the fact that he isn't is a clear sign that one of these Republicans needs to really improve their image- or that the party needs to nominate a fresher face than someone in their current top 4.
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