PPP's monthly look ahead to next year's Presidential race finds Barack Obama in his best position against the major Republican contenders since 2009.
The GOP hopefuls who would make it most competitive against Obama continue to be Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, each of whom he leads by 5 points. Against Romney that's Obama's largest advantage since December of 2009 and against Huckabee it's his biggest lead since November of that year. As hyper as people are getting about Obama's improved approval numbers right now it's still worth noting that his performance against each of these folks is worse than what he posted against John McCain in 2008. He's in a stronger position than he was throughout 2010 but he's still in a weaker position than where he started his Presidency and that's something that should probably be kept in perspective.
Against the other pair of GOP front runners you have to go back even further to find a time when Obama led by this much. His 12 point lead over Newt Gingrich and 17 point one over Sarah Palin is the largest he's had against either since May of 2009 before the health care debate and the rise of the Tea Party over the summer began to plunge Obama's numbers. We also tested Obama against Michele Bachmann and he leads her by 18 points at 51-33.
The biggest reason for Obama's improved standing is actually that some Republicans, less than enamored with their current crops of candidates, are giving him a second look. In the last poll 87% of GOP voters said they would definitely vote for Huckabee against Obama- now it's 80%. 79% said they'd vote for Palin- now it's 69%. 81% said they'd vote for Gingrich- now it's 72%. And 87% said they'd vote for Romney- that's now down to 78%. For most of last year Republicans were so disgusted with Obama that they pretty universally said they'd vote for anyone from their party against him but now their feelings have softened a little and the GOP might need someone more formidable than this current bunch to ensure a unified front in 2012.
In addition to inching up with Republicans Obama is also benefiting from a more unified base. His advantage over Romney is up 7 points from November with Democrats, it's gone up 6 points with Palin and Gingrich, and it's seen a 4 point up tick against Huckabee. His party has really rallied around him in the last couple of months.
Obama's not out of the woods by any means but his prospects for reelection are their rosiest in a good long time.
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