By 45 percent to 42 percent, likely U.S. voters said they would prefer a generic Republican candidate to President Barack Obama in a 2012 presidential matchup, according to a poll released this week by Rasmussen Reports. That’s the second week in a row Obama has “lost” to a faceless candidate.

Men especially want a president from the Grand Old Party — they gave the generic candidate an eight-point boost over Obama. Middle-income voters also favored the Republican. Younger voters, not surprisingly, favored the incumbent, and the vast majority — 96 percent — of black voters also supported Obama.

Importantly, though, in every Rasmussen 2012 election poll of this year, Obama has had support of no more than about 42 percent to 49 percent. As the poll summary points out, “An incumbent who earns support below 50 percent is generally considered politically vulnerable.” That impression is especially underscored by this most recent poll.

Thank you, Mr. Rasmussen, for recognizing what so few pollsters seem to: Head-to-head match-ups between Obama and specific candidates for the Republican nomination cannot possibly reflect the extent to which the voting public just might want to see a change in the White House.

True, in those one-to-one comparisons, Obama consistently edges out all the GOP potentials except for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — and that suggests voters still tend to think of Obama as more prepared for the presidency than any of the right’s primary contenders. In fact, the Rasmussen poll confirms that:

Interestingly, however, while 54 percent of voters view Obama as qualified to be president, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the only Republican 2012 hopeful that a sizable number of voters considers qualified for the White House. Forty-nine percent (49%) say Romney is qualified to be president.

But that will change when Republicans have an actual nominee. Voters will automatically start to look at that candidate as from a slightly more presidential cast.

In the meantime, the two-week trend away from Obama and toward a generic GOP-er appropriately mitigates the impression created by polls that show Obama outstripping GOP candidates who haven’t yet had a chance to make a powerful impression on the national stage.