Gallup shows Obama trailing generic Republican, 46/38

posted at 8:45 am on October 14, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

I think I have this election licked.  All we need to do is find a Republican candidate with plain wrapping and a blue stripe:

U.S. registered voters, by 46% to 38%, continue to say they are more likely to vote for the Republican presidential candidate than for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. The generic Republican led by the same eight-percentage-point margin in September, and also held a lead in July. The August update, conducted just after an agreement to raise the federal debt limit, had Obama with a slight edge.

The current results are based on a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 6-9. The eight-point lead for the Republican candidate persists, 50% to 42%, when taking into account the leanings of undecided voters.

Is this really a good indicator of future outcomes?  That’s arguable. Gallup notes that an incumbent President 20 years ago had a 17-point lead over the generic challenger, and who could forget the glorious second term of George H. W. Bush? On the other hand, his son had a narrow 3-point lead at this stage over a generic opponent and won the next year by just about the same margin.

Of course, an incumbent President should have a substantial lead over an unknown challenger, at least if that President wants a second term.  When an incumbent falls below 50%, a risk arises of having undecideds break sharply for “change,” and Obama is 12 points below that threshold.  That’s not in the “change” category, that’s in the “jump ship” category.  This is the second time in a row that Gallup has Obama at this low re-elect support against a generic challenger, both of which are new lows in this series.  It indicates that his new class-warfare schtick isn’t playing well with voters, at least not at the moment.

However, Republicans won’t be nominating a generic opponent; they will have to nominate someone whose weaknesses will get tested by the Obama campaign for months, while Obama’s weaknesses are already well known.  This poll shows that the eventual Republican nominee will face an electorate that wants a change — but the nominee will still have to make the case.

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