Polls: Independents starting to bail on Obama over the economy?

Tomorrow’s the big speech where he plans to ask for more time to turn things around because there have been all sorts of headwinds and Hopenchange takes time and that damned George W. Bush did everything wrong and yadda yadda yadda.

Think indies will go for it after this month’s terrible jobs report? New from WaPo/ABC:

In the latest Post-ABC poll, 43 percent of voters express favorable opinions about Obama’s economic agenda, while 40 percent say the same of Romney…

Go slightly deeper into the numbers, and Obama’s economic issues are even more acute. Among electorally critical independent voters, nearly three times as many have intensely negative impressions of Obama’s plan than positive ones

What is clear — and virtually impossible to dispute — is that the American public broadly dislikes Obama’s handling of the economy. In the most recent Post-ABC poll, 55 percent disapproved of the way the president is dealing with the economy, and he has been underwater on issue No. 1 for nearly two years.

Obama led McCain by 20 points on the economy in the same poll four years ago. Granted, independents aren’t keen on Romney’s plans either so far, but Romney has the luxury of not being the incumbent in an election that’s shaping up to be a referendum on economic progress. Which explains why there are more undecideds available to him than there are to O:

Swing-voting independents see Barack Obama’s plans for the economy negatively rather than positively by 54-38 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, marking the president’s challenges as he seeks re-election in still-troubled economic times.

It’s no party for Mitt Romney either. Independents also rate his economic plans more unfavorably than favorably, by 47-35 percent…

Obama’s challenges vs. Romney show more starkly when two of the president’s weaker groups are combined – independents who are registered to vote. In this group, more see Obama’s economic plans unfavorably than favorably by 56-36 percent; on Romney’s it’s 45-39 percent.

That’s the WaPo/ABC poll. Reuters did a poll of its own and also detected serious erosion among independents:

Romney now leads Obama 46 percent to 43 percent among all registered voters on the question of which candidate would be stronger on jobs and the economy. That reversed Obama’s 2 point edge on the question last month…

Obama’s approval ratings took their biggest dip among independent voters, who could be crucial to the ultimate outcome of the election in November. Approval for Obama among independents fell from 48 percent to 35 percent.

“Independents are especially susceptible to economic pressures, which is why we see them bouncing all over the place in their approval of the president,” Jackson said. “The finding that he is not doing that well with them this month is something for Obama to worry about.”

Two obvious problems here for O. One, per Jay Cost: He’s essentially a prisoner of fate at this point. No one’s expecting any dramatic uptick in the country’s economic numbers before November; the best he can hope for is continued weak growth and that the eurozone holds together until election day. Which is to say, barring an uncharacteristic major Romney gaffe, there’s no reason to think his numbers with indies are going to improve much on the economy. Two: That sharp decline in job approval among independents in the Reuters poll may be the first sign of former centrist Obama supporters starting to peel away en masse, with others soon to follow based on the June and July jobs reports and how Romney handles himself over the next six weeks or so. You often hear observers of the 1980 election talk about how close the race was until the debates, when Reagan finally shot past Carter decisively by proving to the wavering middle that he was up to the job. Romney may be nearing that same point: Part of the reason some indies may be leery of his economic plan is that they haven’t had a good long look at him yet. The worse the economy does under O, the lower the psychological bar will get for Mitt, such that an impressive performance on the trail and mano a mano with Obama in the fall will shake loose all sorts of fencesitters. These numbers could be an early sign of some shaking.

Here’s a little afternoon Serpenthead to make you feel groovy. Latest Rasmussen national tracking poll of likely voters: Romney 48, Obama 44.

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