Poll shows Obama re-elect number at 38%

A new poll from Politico has bad news for the White House as Barack Obama prepares for the grueling task of re-election.  Despite a long history of American voters choosing to re-elect its Chief Executive, Obama only gets 38% of likely voters to agree that he deserves re-election, while 44% say they will definitely vote against him — and another 13% say they’re considering doing the same:

A significant majority of voters are considering voting against President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, expressing sour views of his new health care law and deep skepticism about his ability to create jobs and grow the sluggish economy, according to the latest POLITICO / George Washington University Battleground Poll.

Only 38 percent of respondents said Obama deserves to be reelected, even though a majority of voters hold a favorable view of him on a personal level. Forty-four percent said they will vote to oust him, and 13 percent said they will consider voting for someone else.

What’s the problem?  ObamaCare and a lack of job creation have completely undermined Obama’s image as a moderate, pragmatic President:

It’s Obama’s policies that are hurting him right now. By a 13-point margin, voters are down on the health care law. In an especially troubling sign, more than half of self-identified independents — 54 percent — have an unfavorable opinion of the law, compared with just 38 percent who have a favorable opinion.

And by an 11-point margin, voters trust congressional Republicans to create jobs more than Obama. His approval rating stands at 46 percent, according to the poll of 1,000 likely voters, conducted Sept. 19 to Sept. 22.

Interestingly, Democrats do better without Obama on that question.  They lead the GOP on the economy by two, and their standing improved since the last Politico/GWU poll last month by ten points.   That hasn’t helped them much, though, as Republicans gained four points in the generic ballot in the same period. Having Obama go out aggressively on the stump may be damaging Democrats’ chances of holding back the expected midterm Republican wave.

Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee polled best against Obama, but the season is far too early for a proper assessment of the GOP field.  The lack of enthusiasm for Obama presents a big problem no matter who’s running, but one that should be kept in historical perspective.  First, Obama still realistically has about fourteen months to turn things around, and Presidents have enough media draw for recovery, especially Obama.  Americans usually like to re-elect the man in the White House, too.  In the last century, only a handful of sitting Presidents have lost their bid for re-election: George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Herbert Hoover.  (Gerald Ford was not elected in the first place, having become President through appointment as VP and then succession after Richard Nixon’s resignation.)  All other Presidents who attempted re-election won a second term, and usually by handy amounts.

One thing these three examples of futility had in common, though, was bad economic environments.  Hoover had made a Wall Street crash into a depression; Carter inherited the results of Keynesian tinkering by Nixon and Ford and transformed it into stagflation.  Bush the Elder had reneged on his tax pledge and tipped the economy into a mild recession, from which we had already recovered by the election, but it was too late to keep Bill Clinton from winning, with a big help from Ross Perot in splitting the vote.   This is why Obama realistically has about fourteen months to turn the economy around; if unemployment is still in the 8-9% level by December 2011, Democrats may wind up looking for some Hope and Change of their own to avoid a repeat of 2010 in 2012.