Is it too early for 2012 presidential-election blogging? Realistically speaking, the season opened yesterday, as the candidates-to-be concluded their ground work for the midterms and now focus on the upcoming primary season. CNN kicks it off with a new poll on some head-to-head matchups and Republican enthusiasm for each — and the names and numbers look familiar, except that Obama has started slipping against a couple of them:
In a possible general election showdown, Obama leads Palin 52-44 percent among all registered voters.
“Looking ahead to 2012, it may be too early to count Barack Obama out, particularly if Sarah Palin is his opponent,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “The former Alaska governor gets a lot of attention, but she is in third place when Republicans are asked to pick a presidential nominee, and in a hypothetical matchup with Obama she is arguably the weakest candidate of the top-tier GOP hopefuls.”
In a hypothetical 2012 matchup, Huckabee leads Obama 52 – 44 percent, while Romney has a 50-45 point advantage, which is within the poll’s sampling error. Obama holds a 49-47 percent margin over Gingrich.
The poll indicates that four in 10 have a favorable opinion of Palin, with nearly half saying they have an unfavorable view.
This presumes that Palin will actually run in 2012, of course, and that attitudes will remain fixed in that period of time. That won’t be the case, however, especially if the US remains in the “new normal” economic stagnation that we have experienced for more than a year. If we have another year of high unemployment and low growth and 2012 begins to look as bleak as 2010, voters will start to change their minds.
In fact, that’s the actual takeaway from this poll. Voters seem to have crossed the Rubicon of voting against Obama in 2012. While that may not sound like much to those who voted against him in 2008, it’s a bigger deal than people think. Most incumbent Presidents who run for a second term win it. The only two who have failed to do that since World War II have been Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, who also had to deal with a serious third-party candidate in Ross Perot. (Carter claimed the same with John Anderson in 1980, but Anderson didn’t impact the race at all; Gerald Ford lost his bid for the office, but he wasn’t elected to it in the first place.) Having majorities admit to themselves and others that they’re ready to give a one-term President the boot is a telling moment.
It then comes down to alternatives, and frankly, it’s far too early to decide on one. The presumed candidates will have a year or more to make their cases, and we don’t even know who may or may not enter the ring. On the Imus show this morning, for instance, author Douglas Brinkley thought Texas Governor Rick Perry might make a run for the office, and that he might get Palin’s backing if he does. Perry just won a third term in Texas and the state went even deeper red. Instead of testing Perry in the poll, CNN tested for Ron Paul, a Texan who has little chance of winning anything except his Congressional seat in 2012.
Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney have their supporters, and given their organizational efforts in 2008 an 2010, have an advantage; for that matter, so does Palin with her ties to the Tea Party and organizing. But we won’t know whether any of them will be in the race or who will catch fire. What we do know is that Obama is beatable in 2012.
Update: I had the wrong link for the CNN poll; it’s fixed now.
Update II: Still had the wrong link! Sorry about that. Now it’s fixed. I promise.