Reuters poll shows bleak prospects for Obama II

The big surprise from the latest Reuters poll doesn’t come from its 6-point GOP spread among likely voters in the generic Congressional ballot, which more or less tracks with every other pollster the past few weeks.  With that spread, Reuters predicts a GOP caucus of 231 seats, which would be a 54-seat pickup, slightly outpacing 1994 and render a huge rebuke to Democrats.  That news is almost old hat by now, but the poll shows long-term prospects of a second term for Barack Obama looking very, very poor:

Obama’s own job approval ratings continue to lag. The poll found that 45 percent of Americans approved of the way Obama is doing his job, versus 51 percent who said they disapprove.

In a sign that Obama has some work to do to improve his fortunes ahead of his 2012 re-election campaign, 52 percent of those surveyed did not think Obama will win re-election in 2012, the poll found. This included 34 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans.

“It’s a bad environment for Democrats, but it’s two years away from the general elections. You have to take that number with a grain of salt,” said Young.

Not when one considers the other measures that will enter into the equation:

  • Sixty-two percent believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.  That is always an ambiguous measure, but with one party in power the last two years, it’s a lot less ambiguous than usual.
  • Likely voters (in this cycle, not 2012’s) say by almost 2-1 that Obama has made the economy worse, 50/26.  That’s actually a better question for pollsters to ask than whether Obama or George Bush should get the blame; two years into his presidency, the issue now is Obama’s performance, not Bush’s.
  • A majority say Obama has made the deficit worse, 53/14.  Who are the 14% who think Obama has improved it?
  • A plurality of 44% say Obama has made taxes worse, while 17% say he has made them better.  This one is a little tougher to argue, as Obama keeps pointing to his payroll tax cut from Porkulus and tax incentives in that bill and in the small-business assistance bill from this year.  However, he also backed a hike in the cigarette tax to pay for S-CHIP and a raft of new taxes on health-care providers and manufacturers to pay for ObamaCare, costs that will be borne by consumers in the end

Obama has two years to reverse this trend, which is almost an eternity in political terms.  However, it won’t improve while joblessness remains high and the national economy remains stagnant.  If Obama doubles down on Obamanomics in the wake of the coming Tea-nami today, the status quo will extend well into 2012 and perhaps encourage some Democrats to rally behind a more moderate challenger in the primary — with Evan Bayh most closely fitting the bill.

Update: Greg Sargent notes that Democrats seem to have lost hope in “change”:

Obviously there’s a long way to go until 2012, but as a snapshot of the current attitude among Dems, that seems to show that Dems are sorely lacking in that old “yes we can” spirit.

I’d say that the Tea Party has more of it at the moment.