Four in 10 Americans “strongly” disapprove of how President Obama is handling the job of president in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, the highest that number has risen during his time in office and a sign of the hardening opposition to him as he seeks a second term.

While the topline numbers are troubling enough, dig deeper into them and the news gets no better for Obama. Forty-three percent of independents — a group the president spent the better part of the last year courting — strongly disapprove of the job he is doing. Forty-seven percent of people 65 years of age and older — reliable voters in any election — strongly disapprove of how he is doing his job.

Strong opposition to Obama has grown markedly since the start of the year.

In a mid-January Post-ABC survey, 28 percent strongly disapproved of the job Obama was doing. With the exception of a poll in early May that followed hard on the killing of Osama bin Laden , that number has steadily ticked upward, as the year has worn on and the economy has remained sluggish (at best).

And even as his strong disapproval numbers have risen, Obama’s strong approval numbers have gone into a mirror-image decline.

In January, 30 percent strongly approved of the job Obama was doing. In the latest Post-ABC survey, that numbers is 21 percent and, as recently as early August, it had dipped to 18 percent.

All of those numbers — and yes, we here at the Fix do love us some poll numbers — point to a simple fact: The “anyone but Obama” crowd is getting larger and more strident in its opinions, while the president’s base is growing less and less strongly supportive of how he is doing his job.

To that point: 43 percent of self-identified Democrats said they “strongly” approve of the job Obama is doing, while 74 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove. That’s a 31-point disparity for you non-math majors out there.

The poll data provide empirical evidence for the recent switch in Obama’s rhetoric from a focus on compromise (aimed at independents) to one that accentuates the differences between his approach and the one advocated by Republicans (aimed at Democrats).

The Post-ABC poll does suggest, however, that Obama’s jobs plan could well help him repair relations with his party base. More than eight in 10 Democrats — and 81 percent of liberals — support it.

A dispirited base coupled with a highly energized opposition isn’t an ideal place for the president to be, but neither is it a political death sentence. President George W. Bush found himself in a not-dissimilar situation in 2004 and managed to win re-election, using a scorched-earth approach designed to disqualify Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) in the eyes of voters.

The latest poll numbers affirm that the 2012 election will look a lot more like that 2004 election than it will Obama’s 2008 victory. Put another way: winning ugly may be the only way for the president to win next November.

Democrats hold on in West Virginia: For those who were watching baseball rather than politics last night, you didn’t miss much.

Despite some consternation, Democrats held on to win the special election for governor of West Virginia, with Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) taking 50 percent of the vote to Republican Bill Maloney’s 47 percent.

The AP called the race shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time — about 90 minutes after polls closed — a very early call that made the result rather anti-climactic for Republicans.

Democrats were quick to argue that the GOP’s efforts to nationalize the race and make it about President Obama failed, but the GOP did close the gap in the final days and weeks of the campaign.

Cain’s path to victory: With some questioning whether he’s in it to win it, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain laid out his path to victory on Tuesday, and he appears to be trying to buy some time.

The pizza magnate told ABC News that his goal is to finish in the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire and, from there, win in South Carolina and Florida.

“We are not going to win every state, but we are going to win enough of the critical ones in order to be able to get the delegates we need,” he said.

Early indications were that Cain could be a strong candidate in Iowa, but he performed poorly in the straw poll in Ames and hasn’t been devoting the requisite time to the state.

Meanwhile, he won a straw poll in Florida 10 days ago.

Of course, by emphasizing later states like South Carolina and Florida, Cain could be trying to give himself more time to catch on. But we saw how well that worked with Rudy Giuliani in 2008.

Conservative group boosts GOP incumbents: The conservative American Action Network is launching a $1.6 million media campaign to prop up more than four dozen Republican incumbents across the country.

The campaign, which features mail, print advertising and phone calls, accuses Obama of trying to balance the budget by cutting Medicare and will benefit 43 House GOP incumbents and 11 Senate GOP incumbents from coast to coast. Samples of the mail pieces can be found here.

Most of the Republicans receiving help are vulnerable to Democratic challengers in 2012, but the media campaign will also benefit senators who were just elected in 2010. It will also help Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who have come under pressure from the right and could face tough primaries next year.

Easy first debate for Warren: The first primary debate in the Massachusetts Senate race did little to stymie Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who has quickly vaulted to the front of the Democratic pack.

City Year co-founder Alan Khazei took a shot at the “Washington establishment” deciding the nominee, and activist Robert Massie warned against what he called a “rush to judgment” — both veiled shots at Warren. But there was no direct confrontation among the six contenders hoping to defeat Sen. Scott Brown (R). They agreed on almost everything.

Warren had the most to lose; the fact that there was essentially no news out of this debate was good news for her.


Not content to let Mitt Romney have all the fun, Jon Huntsman will deliver his own foreign policy speech on Monday.

Cain says being gay is a choice.

Chris Christie joins Rick Santorum in offering something short of criticism of the name of Perry’s hunting camp.

Post media writer Erik Wemple with a great breakdown of Christie’s news conference. Definitely worth the read.

Utah state House and state Senate Republicans are struggling to reach a deal on a congressional redistricting map.

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson (R) files for the state’s open Senate seat.

Ron Paul says killing al-Awlaki is an impeachable offense for Obama.

Rummy spars with al Jazeera.

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) says he won’t announce his plans on running for governor until the calendar hits 2012.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) gives a vote of confidence to the judge overseeing the drawing of the state’s new congressional districts.

Disapproval of Congress hits a two-decade high.

One quarter of congressional freshmen have started their own political action committees.

National Republican Senatorial Commitee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) bury the hatchet.


With Christie Out, Republican Race Begins for Real” — Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

Pundits Pack Meaner Punch Than Comedians’ Fat Jokes” — Kate Taylor, New York Times

Mitt Romney’s moment” — Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Ben Smith, Politico

GOP elite still not sold on Romney” — Michael Levenson, Boston Globe

Apocalypse on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers who love to vote no” — David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

President Obama goes on the attack, to Democrats’ delight” — David Nakamura, Washington Post

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