New polling from Gallup shows that a majority of Americans — 53 percent to be exact — now say President Obama bears at least some blame for the nation’s economic problems, the first time that has been true since he took office in 2009 and a sign of the challenge before him heading into 2012.

President Barack Obama arrives for the start of their Open Government Partnership meeting in New York, Tuesday, Sept., 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Six in ten independents, a group the White House has assiduously courted over the past nine months and is widely seen as the most critical constituency in 2012, give Obama some or a great deal of blame for the state of the economy while 40 percent say he deserves little or no blame.

The news is not as bad for the incumbent as those topline numbers suggest, however. There are, as always, caveats.

Caveat one: More people — almost seven in 10 — blame former President George W. Bush for the economic troubles in which the country currently finds itself. (Among independents, 67 percent give Bush a lot or some blame for the economy.)

Caveat two: While this latest Gallup survey marks the first time Obama has had more than 50 percent of people blaming him for the economy, it is not a statistically significant change fromGallup polling conducted earlier this year when exactly 50 percent said he deserved blame.

Still, a look at the trend line in Gallup’s “economic blame” question isn’t encouraging for Obama.

Check it out:

As Bush and his presidency fade into the political background, it’s a near-certainty that Obama will see the blame game directed more and more at him.

(To be clear, we are making no value judgement on this progression. It is simply human nature; we pay attention to that which is right in front of our collective faces and tend to forget/ignore that which is not.)

Obama and his team have to hope that the streams don’t cross (or come close to crossing) before November 2012, in which case they will still be able to make the case that he inherited an economy on the verge of collapse and took necessary steps to bring it back from the brink.

That argument alone won’t likely convince voters, but it could be an important piece of a broader case that while things aren’t good just yet, Obama is the best hope Americans have to turn the economy around.

If you are looking for one polling question to watch between now and Election Day next year in order to get a sense for where things are heading, the “economic blame” question is a good choice.

‘Let him die’ ad hits Florida: The liberal-leaning health care advocacy group Protect Your Care will begin running ads in Florida as Republican presidential candidates descend on the state for this weekend’s P5 summit.

The $70,000 TV and online buy features an ad asking why Republicans, at least week’s debate, didn’t more forecfully object to the suggestion that an uninsured man be left to die if he got sick. A handful of people in the crowd at the debate applauded that notion, and now Democrats are trying to pin it on the GOP presidential candidates.

“Will Republican candidates listen to the extremes in their party on health care,” the ad asks, “or the American people?”

The ad will run in Orlando from Thursday to Sunday.

Perry leads in Florida , Romney in New Hampshire: A new Quinnipiac poll on the eve of the P5 shows Rick Perry with an early lead in Florida.

The Texas governor leads Mitt Romney 28 percent to 22 percent with Sarah Palin in the race, or 31 percent to 22 percent without her in the race.

Florida could be a key state, depending on which date it sets for its presidential primary. If it sets it for the end of February, it would be a key test after the four early states but before Super Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Romney continues to hold a massive lead in New Hampshire, according to the newest Suffolk University poll. Perhaps most surprising: the poll shows former Utah governor Jon Huntsman at 10 percent, a new high for him in a key state, but still well off Romney’s 41 percent. Perry is in single digits at 8 percent.

DSCC poll shows opportunity in North Dakota: Democrats have been counted out in North Dakota’s open Senate race for a long time now, mostly because there’s not a big-name Democratic candidate ready to succeed Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

But a new poll for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee suggests all is not lost.

The Garin-Hart-Yang poll shows 33 percent of people rate Rep. Rick Berg’s (R-N.D.) job performance as either excellent of good. Another 55 percent rate him fair or poor. As for his personal favorable ratings, 31 percent like Berg, while 34 percent don’t like him.

In a generic trial heat, Berg leads a generic Democrat 44 percent to 40 percent.

None of those numbers suggest a bulletproof candidate. But Democrats still need to have a capable nominee of their own to take advantage of whatever vulnerabilities Berg has.

Republicans point out that one of those potential Democratic candidates, former Dorgan chief of staff Pam Gulleson, opted Wednesday to run for Berg’s open House seat instead — a sign that Berg is seen as formidable, they argue.

Hoekstra starts out over 50: A new poll of the Michigan GOP Senate primary shows former congressman Pete Hoekstra over 50 percent and leading an unknown field by a huge margin.

The Inside Michigan Politics poll, conducted by the Marketing Research Group, has Hoekstra at 51 percent and businessman Clark Durant at 3 percent.

Of course, Durant is very much an unknown at this point. He has made a name for himself with some big early endorsements, including former senator Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) and two former state party chairs.

Hoekstra, meanwhile, has plenty of name ID leftover from his 2010 run for governor, when he finished second in the primary.

In the presidential primary, the state is — as expected — Mitt Romney’s to lose. The son of a former Michigan governor leads Rick Perry 40 percent to 17 percent.

Perhaps more interestingly, in the general election Romney is tied with Obama at 42 percent, while Obama would lead Perry 47 percent to 35 percent.

Rubio hires Pawlenty spokesman: Former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty’s top spokesman has landed in a good spot.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) office has announced that Alex Conant will join its team as press secretary, meaning Conant will be guiding the message of one of the rising stars in GOP politics.


AARP goes up with an ad campaign telling the debt reduction “supercommittee” to leave Medicare and Social Security alone.

New ads on both sides in the Kentucky governor’s race.

More problems (if you can believe it) for likely Missouri GOP governor candidate Peter Kinder.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) says Romney should disown the health care bill he signed as governor of Massachusetts.

Politico reports that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will endorse Romney.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) dusts off his underdog costume.

Warren Buffett will attend an Obama fundraiser. Makes sense.

Tea party Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will join Obama on an Air Force One trip to Northern Kentucky.

Rand’s father, presidential candidate Ron Paul, drops a $1 million moneybomb.


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