Barack Obama has his potential Republican challengers to thank for his early lead in the 2012 race, according to a new poll from Washington Post/ABC News.
Americans' economic concerns are driving down the president's approval numbers, the poll finds, bringing his current approval rating to 47 percent-- down seven points since January and below the 50 percent benchmark used to indicate political vulnerability. Half of all Americans disapprove of his job performance, with 37 percent saying they "strongly disapprove."
But due to dissatisfaction with the burgeoning GOP field, the Post writes, Obama is maintaining an early edge in the 2012 race.
Forty percent of "Leaned Republicans" responded that they are dissatisfied with the Republican field and 43 percent indicated they are satisfied.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the only potential candidate listed who received double-digit support when GOP "leaners" were asked to indicate their preferred GOP candidate: 16 percent cited Romney, followed by Donald Trump, who received 8 percent.
In head-to-heads with the president, Romney also fared best, trailing Obama by just 4 percentage points among all Americans: 45 to 49 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee polled second-best in head-to-head matchups, trailing the president by 6 points: 46 to 50 percent.
The president led the other five candidates in the poll by double-digits: 12 points over real estate mogul Trump; 12 points over Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.); 15 points over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; 15 points over former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and 17 points over former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
(Photo of Obama and Pawlenty: Alex Brandon/AP)