It’s not news that President Obama’s polling numbers are bad. But is he really in danger of losing re-election?
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that if the election were held today, Obama would narrowly lose to three potential 2012 GOP hopefuls: Mike Huckabee (47 percent to 45 percent), Newt Gingrich (46 percent to 45 percent) and Mitt Romney (46 percent to 43 percent). The same survey finds him tied with Sarah Palin (46 percent). That’s a major departure from a Time magazine poll out today, which finds Obama handily beating Palin, 55 percent to 34 percent.
With 845 days to go before Election Day 2012, these polls are basically meaningless, more a reflection of Obama’s bad rep with voters today than what might actually happen in a real honest-to-goodness race. But make no mistake: Any candidate who is at least toying with a White House bid is paying very close attention to these polls, trying to gauge how weak Obama may be as they consider their own political fates.
At a breakfast last fall, Huckabee dismissed talk of a 2012 bid, telling reporters that judging the presidential field too early “was like trying to pick a best actor without knowing what the movies are.” Yet he admitted he would look closely at Obama’s political standing heading into 2012 when considering his own future. If Obama looked strong, Huckabee said, it would be a “waste of my time” to run. After all, he added, only once has a political party in the White House not been able to stay there for eight years.
Yet that hasn’t kept Huckabee from closely monitoring these 2012 polls. As we reported last month, his campaign operation asked for him to be included in future surveys when the Des Moines Register omitted the governor from one of its 2012 polls. One reason: Surveys like this, as meaningless as they may be, drum up buzz among potential supporters and donors. Perhaps no one understands that strategy better than Obama, who quietly began to build his own political operation ahead of the last midterm election four years ago.
But is Obama actually vulnerable? A recent Gallup poll found the country virtually split on the question of whether he should be re-elected — a result that largely reflected the mood of country that's politically divided down the middle anyway. Still, the White House isn’t leaving anything to chance. Obama's advisers have admitted they are already thinking of how to position the president ahead of 2012 — a campaign that will begin in earnest in 112 days, the day after the November midterms.