So much for a post-SOTU bounce.  A new Marist poll of registered voters nationwide puts Barack Obama’s approval at just 44%, the same as the Rasmussen tracking poll this weekend.  The numbers among independents will really rattle the White House (via Geoff A):

Fewer registered voters nationwide — 44% — currently approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance than disapprove — 47%. When Marist last asked about the president’s approval rating in December, 46% thought well of Obama’s job performance while 44% gave him low marks.

Perhaps, particularly concerning for Mr. Obama is the drop in support among Independents. For the first time since taking office, a majority of Independents — 57% — disapproves of how he is doing in the role. 29% approve, and 14% are unsure. …

“If attracting Independents and bipartisanship are the aim, then the president clearly has a lot of ground to cover in year two,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

The news gets worse from there.  The number of Democrats who believe that Obama is changing the country for the better remains relatively high, but dropped from 76% just two months ago to 69% now.  But among independents, that number has flipped.  Two months ago, they split at 36%, but now almost a majority (45%) believe he’s changing the country for the worse, while only 26% believe the opposite.

Obama can’t rely on personal favorability for much longer, either.  Consistently across all pollsters, Obama generally has solid majorities of people that personally like him.  Not any longer; among all Marist respondents, that number is down to 50%, losing five points since December.  A majority of independents (52%) hold an unfavorable view of Obama personally, up nine points in two months.

The upcoming midterms will definitely be a problem for Obama and the Democrats.  Already, a majority of respondents see the elections as a referendum either on Obama himself or Democratic leadership in Congress (54% combined), while only 18% want to send a message to the GOP.  That impulse is as strong with independents (61%) as it is with Republicans (62%), and almost as strong among Democrats (48%).

This spells disaster in the midterms for Democrats.  Of late, their efforts have gone into casting Republicans as the villains that kept the Democratic agenda from being seen as properly benign, but that campaign has been ongoing for the last two months and has had no lifting effect.  They had better reconsider that agenda instead.