TIMOTHY NOAH SEPTEMBER 13, 2011
President Barack Obama may have an unfavorable rating of 50 percent, but he still leads every major Republican candidate in the field, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling. That's remarkable given the dismal state of the economy. Median household income declined in real (after-inflation) terms during the first two years of Obama's presidency, the only ones we have data for. According to a new Census study, real median household income was, at the end of 2010, down 6.4 percent since 2007 (i.e., since before the recession). Unemployment stands at 9.1 percent. The poverty rate went up during Obama's first two years, and it now stands at 15.1 percent. No wonder this guy's unbeatable! (For more on the Census report, see Jonathan Cohn's blog entry.)
That the Republican presidential candidates are unable to capitalize on the miserable state of the economy gives you some idea of how weak Obama's opposition is. None of the major GOP candidates can beat John McCain's 46 percent from 2008. Mitt Romney, who at this point seems the likeliest nominee, loses 45 percent to Obama's 49 percent (a much smaller margin, I'll grant you, than 2008's 53-46 percent; the difference is the 7 percent who are undecided). Front-runner Rick Perry loses 41 percent to Obama's 52 percent. (The poll was conducted before last night's debate, so it doesn't take into account Perry's weak performance.) Newt Gingrich loses 41 percent to Obama's 53 percent, and Michelle Bachmann loses 39 percent to 53 percent. With the exception of Romney, every one of these Republican clowns has negatives as high as or higher than Obama's. Gingrich's unfavorable rating is 57 percent, Bachmann's is 53 percent, and Perry's is 50 percent. Romney's is only 44 percent.
If the GOP nominee ends up being Romney, Obama will face in the fall of 2012 an opponent who, in a sensible world, would boast that he instituted Obamacare before Obamacare was cool. Since this is not a sensible world, Obama will face an opponent who frantically tries to distance himself from Obamacare, an effort for which he has been mocked by the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Club For Growth, who aren't buying it. The Massachusetts health reform is Romney's only significant governing legacy and it's become his biggest liability. In these dark days of Obama's presidency, Obama's biggest electoral problem is that these numbers might make him overconfident. How lucky can you get?