The economy’s looking up and, thanks to our … unfortunate field of GOP presidential candidates, Republican enthusiasm’s looking down.
The president’s approval rating has edged up three points from last month and is up six points from November. The last time Obama’s approval rating was at 50% or above was last May, as a result of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and it stayed there for about a month before fading…
The survey suggests that the contentious Republican primary season has decreased enthusiasm among Republican voters, virtually erasing the “enthusiasm gap” that promised to provide the ultimate GOP presidential nominee with a major advantage in the fall. In October, 64% of Republicans said that they were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president, compared to only 43% of Democratic voters. GOP enthusiasm since that time has tumbled 13 points, to 51%, virtually the same as the Democrats’ level of enthusiasm.
Republicans actually outnumber Democrats in CNN’s sample of registered voters so there’s no obvious reason to suspect the data. The GOP enthusiasm trend (the columns represent “extremely,” “very,” “somewhat,” “not too,” and “not at all” enthusiastic):
Back in October, the field was still huge and we were proceeding apace through the “anyone can win” wheel o’ frontrunners. Three months later, when the January poll was taken, Romney had just won New Hampshire (and Iowa, we thought at the time) so the race suddenly felt like a foregone conclusion. A month later the race is unsettled again, but it’s nastier than ever and no one’s thrilled with their options. I wonder what the numbers look like next month if we get another good jobs report and if the vote splits three ways on Super Tuesday.
Beyond that, Ron Brownstein of National Journal noted yesterday that Obama’s numbers head to head against Romney across various demographics are starting to look a lot like his numbers against McCain four years ago, a sign that the disgruntled Hopenchange coalition might be piecing itself back together. Of special note: The One does six points better against Romney among white women voters than he did against McCain in 2008, and bear in mind that Romney is the stronger of the two top Republican candidates among women right now. He leads Santorum in that demographic by nine points, which is nothing new for RS: He lost women in his 2000 Senate victory and got clobbered among women in his landslide defeat to Bob Casey in 2006. Gonna be a lot of gender politics, starting with his old comments about contraception being “harmful to women,” in the general election if he’s the nominee.
On the other hand:
Romney and Gingrich are perceived as candidates of the rich whereas Santorum is seen as more blue-collar. But even as between Mitt and Newt, there’s a distinction. When tea partiers are asked whether Gingrich favors the rich or the middle class, they split 35/53. (Santorum’s split is 15/65.) When they’re asked about Romney, though, behold:
If even a majority of core conservative voters thinks one of the GOP’s candidates is biased towards the rich then Team Hopenchange clearly has very fertile populist ground on which to attack him in the general. For further reading on that, I’ll leave you with this Nate Silver piece provocatively titled, “Why Obama Will Embrace the 99 Percent.” In key swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana, there are enough working-class white voters to make a big difference to Obama’s margin against Romney if he can exploit perceptions that Mitt’s in the pocket of the, ahem, “one percent.” Santorum would be much tougher for him to beat on that point — but of course, potentially much easier for him to beat among women. Who’s more electable ultimately?
Update: Meanwhile, Fox News says O is up against everyone in a broad regional poll of swing states. Dude, I’m nervous.
These swing states fall into three regional tiers. The Rocky Mountain tier includes Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. The Rust Belt tier includes Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And the Dixie tier includes North Carolina, Florida and Virginia.
Across these states, Santorum performs about as well as Romney in matchups with the president.
The swing-state voters back Obama over Romney by 8 percentage points and Santorum by 9 points.
Note: Obama does trail in certain individual swing states. In Ohio, Romney leads him by six and Santorum leads him by three.
Update: Even Obama girl seems ready to vote for him again.