Except Jon Huntsman's wholloping in Utah and Ron Paul's narrow lead in Texas, we have yet to find a single Republican beating Obama in his own state. Now New Jersey marks another state where a potential favorite-son White House aspirant has no home-field advantage.
The Garden State has been a bit of a tease for Republicans at the presidential level. In the wake of 9/11, George W. Bush’s campaign played there at the last minute in 2004, only to lose by six points on Election Day. The GOP may have sensed renewed hope with the election of Chris Christie in 2009, but his popularity has sunk, and if he were to run, he would do worse in his home state against President Obama than would national frontrunner Mitt Romney. In fact, none of the contenders would come closer than John McCain did to winning the state except Romney, and Romney only barely.
Romney’s 14-point deficit, 53-39, is only a hair less than McCain’s 15-point loss in 2008. Christie falls behind by 17, 56-39; Michele Bachmann by 20, 55-35; Tim Pawlenty by 22, 54-32; Herman Cain by 26, 55-29; and Sarah Palin also by 26, 59-33.
Romney (52-37), Palin (59-29), and Christie (55-38) trailed by similar margins when PPP last took a look at the race in early January.
The president wins the independent vote against everyone but Romney, leading by one (Pawlenty and Bachmann) to twelve points (Palin) but trailing Romney 44-45. But at only 22% of the electorate, independents are the least numerous voters in this state. Obama's greatest advantages are that Democrats have a 46-32 self-identified turnout edge over Republicans and that he wins considerably more support from the opposite party than the Republicans do. He takes 13% (against Romney and Pawlenty) to 17% of the GOP vote (Palin), while they only pull 5% (Cain and Pawlenty) to 9% of Obama's party (Romney).
Obama’s approval rating in the Garden State has essentially not changed in the last seven months, now at 52%, with 43% disapproving (51-43 then), still his seventh or eighth best showing in the country. That is basically the reverse of Christie’s 43-53 spread, which is itself an improvement on all his other partymates, with Romney at a 36-47 favorability margin, Cain a 20-33, Bachmann a 32-50, Pawlenty a 20-44, and Palin a 31-65.
President Obama might be in a periodic popularity swoon nationally right now, and he's struggling in Jersey's western neighbor, Pennsylvania, among other swing states, but he hasn't dipped here, and it's not likely the state's shrunken slate of 14 electoral votes will be up for grabs next fall.
Full results here.