Despite his recent popularity spike there should be no mistaking it- Barack Obama is vulnerable for reelection. The problem for the GOP is that he's a lot more vulnerable against generic Republicans than the actual Republicans looking at the race. Nevertheless there's plenty of time for a lesser known GOP contender to rise from the back of the field and prove to be a strong contender, or maybe even for one of the current front runners to have an image makeover that makes them more viable in a general election.
Republican chances of taking down Obama are going to depend a lot on the type of candidate the party puts forward. Tested against a generic Republican we find Obama tied at 47%. When you ask about a couple more specific types of GOP candidates though the numbers move in different directions. Against a generic moderate Republican candidate Obama actually trails by 2 points at 46-44. But when you ask voters whether they'd go for Obama or a Tea Party conservative Republican he leads by 4 points at 49-45.
There's a particularly large difference in how independents lean depending on the type of nominee the GOP ends up going with- they prefer a moderate Republican over Obama by 7 points, but they prefer Obama over a Tea Party style GOPer by 5 points. There's no doubt Republican chances of defeating Obama will be best with a centrist. Whether the party base is really going to be willing to sacrifice some ideological purity to get that candidate is another question.
He may be tied with a generic Republican but Obama leads against all of the named candidates in this poll. He has a 3 point advantage over Mike Huckabee at 47-44, a 5 point one over Mitt Romney at 46-41, a 9 point one over Newt Gingrich at 49-40, a 9 point one also over Ron Paul at 48-39, a 12 point one over Sarah Palin at 52-40, a 14 point one over Jeb Bush at 50-36, and a 14 point one over Donald Trump at 48-34.
Obama does better against the real Republicans than the generic ones for a very simple reason: with the exception of Huckabee voters just don't like any of those folks. Huckabee does have a positive favorability rating, at 36/30. The rest are all in negative territory: Jeb Bush's net favorability is -8 (29/37), Mitt Romney's is -9 (33/42), Ron Paul's is -21 (24/45), Sarah Palin's is -22 (34/56), Newt Gingrich's is -25 (27/52), and Donald Trump's is -29 (27/56).
Trump is pretty strongly disliked across the political spectrum. 61% of Democrats, 53% of Republicans, and 52% of independents have a negative opinion of him. At least you can say he's a unifier.
The big takeaway from this poll: Obama is certainly still vulnerable but whether the GOP's going to be able to take advantage of that vulnerability is an open question. And the Republican base might be its own worst enemy when it comes to whether it's willing to nominate the kind of candidate who can win in November.
Full results here