Barack Obama's standing in Nevada has taken a significant turn in the wrong direction since early January and it appears he could have a much tougher time in the state next year than he did in 2008, particularly if the Republicans nominate Mitt Romney.
Obama's approval rating in Nevada is only 45% with 52% of voters disapproving of him. That represents an 11 point negative shift in his net approval since he posted a 50/46 spread on PPP's first 2011 poll of the state. There are two problems contributing to Obama's poor numbers. The first is that he is very unpopular with independents, only 33% of whom express favor for the job he's doing to 65% who disapprove. The second is that Republicans (89%) are more united in their unhappiness with Obama than Democrats (79%) are in their approval. When independents don't like you and the opposite party dislikes you more than your own likes you, that's pretty much always going to be a formula for bad poll numbers.
Despite his unpopularity Obama does lead 4 of the 5 Republicans we tested against him in the state, albeit by smaller margins than what he won over John McCain in 2008. That's because even though Nevadans may not like him very much they still have a much higher opinion of him than they do of most of the GOP field. Mike Huckabee's favorability is 36/45 and Obama leads him 45-43. Newt Gingrich's favorability is 33/53 and Obama leads him 46-42. Donald Trump's favorability is 32/59 and Obama leads him 47-41. And Sarah Palin's favorability is 34/61 and Obama leads her 50-39.
Mitt Romney is the exception to the Republican unpopularity rule. Voters in the state may not love him- he breaks even on his favorability at 43%- but compared to Obama and the rest of his GOP peers that has him looking pretty good. He leads Obama 46-43, buoyed by a 58-27 advantage with independent voters. He also picks up 13% of Democratic voters while allowing Obama to win just 6% of Republicans. It appears Romney would make a considerably more formidable opponent for Obama in Nevada than McCain did.
The Nevada poll also provides more evidence of another emerging truth- Trump's greatest possible impact on the Presidential race next year would be if he really follows through on his threat to run as an independent if he doesn't get the Republican nomination. With Trump in a three way race involving Romney, Obama gets 42% to 34% for Romney and 20% for Trump. With Trump in a three way race involving Huckabee, Obama gets 44% to 30% for Huckabee, and 21% for Trump. In both cases Trump gets 34% of the Republican vote but only 9-12% of the Democratic vote. Even if Trump ran as an independent and only got a third of the poll support he's showing now it would probably be enough to ensure Obama won the state again in spite of his own poor numbers. A Trump independent bid would almost certainly hand Obama reelection.
Full results here