JONATHAN COHN NOVEMBER 10, 2011
The election is a year away, the Republican primaries still haven’t started, and any number of highly plausible scenarios could undermine President Obama’s reelection prospects. But the polls are starting to confirm what a lot of us already suspected: Obama’s political support is rising again.
The latest survey is from Gallup. After the summer, Obama fell behind in Gallup surveys pitting him against an unnamed, generic Republican opponent. And that was a pretty clear sign of weakness. But in the latest Gallup poll, out today, Obama has pulled into a statistical tie with the generic Republican.
More impressive still, he’s pulled even with the generic Republican among independent voters. Two months ago, Obama was trailing among independents by 48 percent to 27 percent, with the rest uncertain. Now he’s tied at 38 percent. In other words, he’s erased a 21-point gap. (See graphic above.)
These numbers are consistent with Obama’s overall approval ratings, which have been creeping up since early September. Given the timing, two obvious theories come to mind: Voters are getting over the debt ceiling battle, which dominated news in the summer, or they are getting mad at the Republicans for blocking Obama’s jobs agenda, which polls suggest is pretty popular. Either way, it suggests Obama is a bit stronger than he was two months ago.
A few caveats: "Independent" voters are not the same as white, blue-collar voters -- a key group with whom Obama still has some trouble, although less if he's running against Romney. (Alec had this story on the Stump the other day.) And all of this could change between now and next November. If, for example, Italy plunges the entire European economy into chaos, the U.S. will surely feel the effects – and Obama’s reelection bid will become much tougher.