Obama gets lowest scores yet on economy, deficit in Marist poll

Barack Obama’s chances of winning a second term seem to be fading, according to McClatchy’s report on their poll conducted in partnership with Marist.  His approval ratings on the economy and on the federal budget deficit have hit new lows in the poll, usually a big indicator on re-election prospects.  However, his personal approval has not changed much at all, and Obama may still be successfully deflecting at least some of the blame:

President Barack Obama is in a fragile position as the 2012 campaign begins: Only 37 percent of registered voters approve of his handling of the economy, his lowest rating ever, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

Another ominous sign for Obama: By nearly 2-1, voters disapprove of how he’s handling the federal budget deficit, expected to hit a record $1.5 trillion this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

“It’s a real caution sign … the four-year lease on the White House is very much dependent on how people end up looking at the economy,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which performed the survey.

Even with these poor results, Obama manages to get a 50/44 on personal favorability.  His job approval rating is slightly underwater at 45/47, which Marist’s analyst claims will make the presidential election “competitive” in 2012.  One reason those numbers have mainly held in place in Marist’s poll series is the fact that a large majority still believe that Obama inherited the economic problems rather than caused them, almost 2-1 at 61/31.  Obama has successfully reserved that as a way to keep voters from personally blaming him for their woes.

However, that won’t keep them from changing horses if they don’t see his policies working, and majorities almost as large do not.  On the economy, Obama is 21 points underwater at 37/58.  His numbers on managing the federal deficit are the exact opposite of the “inherited” question, 31/61.  Whatever the cause of the economic problems we face now, voters don’t see Obama as the solution.

Even the “don’t blame me” strategy has its limits.  If the economy tips over into recession again this summer, as indicators are starting to suggest, Obama won’t be able to blame that on George W. Bush.  He’ll own that one all by himself, and the last fig leaf for Obama on the economy will finally drop.