Our newest poll in Ohio epitomizes the current state of the Presidential race. Barack Obama's not really all that popular. But he's in a good position for reelection right now because the Republican field is even more unpopular. It means that Obama's current horse race leads are tenuous if the GOP does end up with a candidate who sets the world on fire, but it's far from inevitable that's going to happen.
Obama's numbers are under water in Ohio- 46% of voters approve of him to 49% who disapprove. Independents split again him by a 37/55 margin and and he's losing the support of a lot more Democrats (19% disapprove) than he is picking up support across party lines from Republicans (only 11% approve.) Obama's numbers in Ohio are actually a little bit worse than when we polled there in March and found him on narrowly positive ground at 47/46, suggesting that any bin Laden bounce he may have received there has quickly dissipated.
Despite his upside down approval numbers Obama leads the top three Republicans currently running or in the picture for the Presidential race by margins equal to or greater than what he won in the state against John McCain in 2008. Against Mitt Romney he's up by 4 points at 46-42, equivalent to his victory last time around. In a match up versus Newt Gingrich his margin expands to 9 points at 49-40 and he has a 10 point edge on Sarah Palin at 50-40.
Obama manages those early leads because even if voters don't like him, they like his potential Republican foes even less. 11% more voters have an unfavorable opinion of Romney at 43% than have a positive one of him at 32%. That puts him in much better standing than Palin who stands at -24 (34/58) and Gingrich who's at -37 (22/59). Independents dislike all three of the Republicans just as they dislike Obama and the GOP contenders are all more reviled across party lines than they are liked in their own, again, just like Obama. If the 2008 election was about hope and change the 2012 election may be more about who do you hate less.
Romney's favorability numbers are basically identical to what they were the last time we polled Ohio. Palin's actually doing 6 points better in the horse race against Obama and has seen her net favorability improve 4 points relative to our last poll, evidence that staying out of the spotlight may be helping her image at least a little bit. These numbers are further indication that Gingrich's candidacy launch has been an utter disaster. His +9 standing with Republicans (41/32) is down 11 points from +20 (47/27) on our previous poll. His fall here is not as a cataclysmic with Republican voters as it is in Wisconsin where we'll have numbers later this week but it's still pretty darn bad.
Just as a what the heck we tested Rob Portman on this poll against Obama- you never know if a swing state Senator elected by a wide margin would start looking enticing over the summer as the weakness of the GOP field becomes more and more apparent. But Portman actually does just as bad as Palin, trailing by 10 points at 48-38, and has negative approval numbers for his Senate performance at 28/33. Those numbers suggest he probably wouldn't be all that helpful as a potential running mate, much less as an actual nominee.
Obama's poor numbers in the state still make Ohio a definite toss up even if he has decent leads there right now- but voters in the state are sending a message that they're willing to vote for Obama again even if they don't much care for him if the Republicans can't come up with a more serviceable candidate.
Full results here