The Washington Post

Obama and 2012: approval down, but little enthusiasm for GOP field

Today’s Washington Post-ABC News poll is the first since President Obama launched his re-election bid, and he runs ahead of seven potential Republican challengers.

But there are also warning signs: Obama’s approval and favorability ratings are near or at all-time lows, largely driven by spreading public anxiety about the economy.

For now, there’s little Republican enthusiasm for often-mentioned potential GOP candidates, with Obama, in head-to-head match-ups, able to hold onto more of his base than are most of the Republicans.

For example, in a hypothetical race against real estate magnate Donald Trump, Obama wins 85 percent of the Democratic vote, compared with Trump’s smaller, 71 percent take of the Republican vote. This pattern holds true for Obama against Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee hold their own in their base, winning just about as many Republicans as Obama wins Democrats.

A trouble spot for the GOP — but also an opportunity — is the fact that Republican candidates have typically secured their base more solidly than Democratic candidates. A comparison to the last three presidential elections using exit polls finds the Republican candidates winning 91 percent of Republican voters versus the Democrats winning 88 percent among their base voters.

Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.

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