Poll: Only 31% believe we're better off than four years ago

No wonder Democrats tried their best to run away from the Reagan Metric this weekend.  Surrogates such as David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley tried dodging the inevitable question in every presidential election: are we better off now than we were four years ago?  A new poll from The Hill shows why Democrats want to change the subject every time that question gets asked:

A majority of voters believe the country is worse off today than it was four years ago and that President Obama does not deserve reelection, according to a new poll for The Hill.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say the nation is in “worse condition” now than in September 2008, while 54 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection based solely on his job performance.

Only 31 percent of voters believe the nation is in “better condition,” while 15 percent say it is “about the same,” the poll found. Just 40 percent of voters said Obama deserves reelection.

The poll, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, has an R+2 likely-voter sample at 34/36/30.  That’s nearly identical to 2010’s 35/35/30 turnout, and given the enthusiasm deficit seen this year among Democrats, looks like a very defensible model for the general election.  The main questions have much more separation than a 2-3 point swing in partisan affiliation would impact, anyway.

These numbers look bad for Obama all the way down the line.  On the better off question, most demos offer majorities for “worse,” including critical demos like 18-39YOs (33/50 better/worse), those earning between $20K-$40K (25/58), and especially independents (21/60).  Even women offer a strong plurality of failure (33/47).  Only Democrats (64/20), liberals (62/14), and those making more than $100,000 per year (52/38) think things have improved.

The first question asked in this poll is the re-election query: Based solely on job performance, does President Obama deserve to be re-elected?  Obama loses this question — which gets asked before the better off question or anything else — by 14 points.  Even a majority of women (40/51) say no, and the exact same percentage occurs with the younger voter demo.  Obama loses this by 29 points among independents (32/61).  It’s a stunning, broad, and deep rejection of Obama’s first term as President, hardly an “incomplete.”  And this is just two months before voters go to the polls to make this very choice.

This demonstrates the danger for Team Obama in running on their record.  They cannot allow this election to be about Barack Obama and his agenda.  They have to make it about Mitt Romney and how deeply scaaaaaaary Republicans are.  That’s why Democrats dodged and weaved when asked the simple question that goes to the heart of voters’ decisions in presidential elections, especially when incumbents ask for a second term.  To answer this at all, either positively or negatively, turns the election into a referendum on Obama — a report card, if you will — which will inevitably lead to Obama flunking his final exam.