Obama Crusin’ For A November Bruisin’?

Things aren't all sunshine and roses for the Obama 2012 campaign.

Many conservative blogs picked up yesterday on a Gallup report that shows President Obama’s job approval rating below 50% in 40 out of the 50 states:

PRINCETON, NJ — In 10 states plus the District of Columbia, a majority of residents approved of the job Barack Obama was doing as president last year, according to aggregated data from 2011. His greatest support came from District of Columbia, Maryland, and Hawaii residents, while Utah and Idaho residents gave him his lowest levels of support — below 30%.

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking data from 2011, which include interviews with just under 180,000 U.S. residents and no fewer than 500 residents in any state (the sample for the District of Columbia was 356). State samples are weighted so they are demographically representative of the population of each state. Full data for each state appear on page 2.

Eastern states largely make up the list of those with the highest approval ratings of Obama — those above majority approval. Eight of the top 11 are from the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic areas of the country. The exceptions are Obama’s birth state of Hawaii, his home state of Illinois, and California.

The states with the lowest approval ratings are more regionally diverse, with the greatest number — five, including Alaska — in the Western part of the United States.

Overall, Obama averaged 44% job approval in his third year in office, down from 47% in his second year. His approval rating declined from 2010 to 2011 in most states, with Wyoming, Connecticut, and Maine showing a marginal increase, and Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey, Arizona, West Virginia, Michigan, and Georgia showing declines of less than a full percentage point. The greatest declines were in Hawaii, South Dakota, Nebraska, and New Mexico.

This led Conn Carroll at Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential  to create an Electoral College map in which Obama only wins the states where he’s job approval numbers are at a net positive:

Much like John Hinderaker, I’m skeptical of the work that Carroll has done here. For one thing, the approval numbers that he’s relying upon are averages of Obama’s job approval over all of 2011, not a realistic assessment of what his current state-level job approval number might be. For another, there is not necessarily a correlation between Presidential job approval and electoral outcomes, except in extreme cases. Even in states where the President’s numbers are upside down right now, it’s still possible that he’ll be winning come November. For example, there is no realistic chance that a Democratic nominee is going to lose in a state like Oregon. Similarly, the Republicans have been chasing the dream of winnin Pennsylvania again for almost 30 years, but haven’t done it since 1988; it’s not likely they’ll do it in 2012. Finally, these Gallup numbers reflect polls of adults not likely voters, not even registered voters. Trying to hypothesize election results from these numbers is really just a waste of time.

Notwithstanding that fact, as Jim Vandehai at Politico notes, there are a number of reasons that the President should be worried about 2012 that go beyond the polls:

To hear Democrats (and much of the media) tell it, President Barack Obama is a man on the rebound. The president turned in a strong State of the Union speech, picked a smart political fight over taxing the rich and authorized another heroic Navy SEAL mission in terrorist territory. Sounds like a recipe for reelection, they say.

There is a big problem with this Pollyanna punditry: There are a bunch of real-time numbers coming in that tell a much different tale.

In short, there’s a new Congressional Budget Office report that shows unemployment likely to climb to nearly 9 percent by the election, there’s polling data showing Obama tied or trailing Mitt Romney in the most important swing states (and doing only marginally better against Ron Paul), and there is mounting evidence that the assumption of a decisive Obama fundraising advantage for the fall might be flat wrong. All of this is happening while Republicans are at their worst, with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich spending millions of dollars and using all of their air time explaining why the other is untrustworthy, deeply flawed and eminently beatable by Obama.

Those swing states may be the most important factor:

Gallup, which both parties praise for its detailed appraisals of voters’ moods, just crunched the numbers in the 12 states that can authentically be called swing states. The results were hardly great news for Democrats.

Romney and Obama were tied.

Heck, Ron Paul is running only a few points behind Obama, and he’s yet to win more than 23 percent of the vote in a GOP primary or caucus.

So, notwithstanding the GOP’s confusion at the moment, things aren’t necessarily peachy for President Obama either. And if, as we learned, yesterday, the economy really does continue stagnate and unemployment remains high all the way through November, then I would recommend that my Democratic friends check their overconfidence at the door and settle in for a long and bruising battle.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Hey Norm says:

    Shorter Doug…

    This is an incredibly flawed analysis on every level…but listen, I really f’ing hate Obama…almost as much as I hate hippies and drum circles…so here you go.

    Definition of TRIPE
    1: stomach tissue especially of a ruminant (as an ox) used as food
    2: something poor, worthless, or offensive

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    then I would recommend that my Democratic friends check their overconfidence at the door and settle in for a long and bruising battle.

    This is a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t think Democrats think Obama is a shoo by any means but obviously they are watching the Republican nominating carnival with some satisfaction and can’t be too unhappy with the prospect of Romney as an opponent. It’s not even worth commenting on some of this analysis which isn’t worth a rat’s rectum both because of the flawed methodology and the total worthlessness of polls this far out. This election will hinge on whether Obama’s coalition from 2008 turns out for him again. It’s that simple.

  3. Jr says:

    Is this the best people can come up with? This is such a garbage way to show that the election may be a fight. The bottom line is this, the electoral map is very much slanted in Obama’s favor. Hell, if he wins any state out of Ohio, PA, NC, and FL he likely wins the election. And there is a good chance Obama could win all 4 of those states.

    Nothing is for certain of course, but it is BS to say Democrats shouldn’t be in good spirits at the moment.

  4. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Well, Obama’s absolute floor is around 48%. The economy could morph overnight into Greece’s economy and yet Obama still will receive around 98% of the black vote, on heavy turnout. Then you have the pubic sector unions. Rich liberals on the coasts. College and grad students. The mentally disabled. People who already went senile and who think they’re voting for Truman or for JFK. Guilty whites. So on, so forth. Now that Romney has locked up the nomination it’s all but guaranteed at least that a couple of million of evangelical conservatives will sit out the election. Maybe more. Then there’s the mass media. Can you fathom how biased the coverage will be? It’ll make Dan Rather’s fake but accurate look tame.

    Obama will have no less than a coin flip chance at reelection, no matter what happens with the economy.

  5. Jib says:

    Really? Just run the same map but assign the states to who ever has a higher approval ratings, Obama or Romney. Look at that! It is a land slide for Obama.

    What we learned in 2004 is that a re-election is not a referendum on how good the current president it doing, it is a straight up competition between 2 people for who you want to run the country. 2 people, pick only only 1.

    We are rapidly reaching the point where the question stops being ‘is Obama doing a good job’ and starts being ‘who do you want to run the country, Obama or Romney’. Right now, Obama wins that one hands down. That is the true reason behind his rise in the polls recently. He looks damn good compared to the clown circus that it the repub party.

    Lots can happen between now and Nov but given the shrinking base of the repub party, a bunch of states are going to be much closer than they should be. You have the real possibility that Obama can win a lower % of the vote than last time and win more electoral votes.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    More reductio ad absurdum from those suffering cognitive dissonance.

  7. anjin-san says:

    but it is BS to say Democrats shouldn’t be in good spirits at the moment.

    Given the GOP primary circus, I would say no reed is too slender to grasp at the moment.

  8. Jib says:

    To reinforce my earlier point, according to the latest polls, not the average of all year but right now, Obama’s national favorable / unfavorable rating is + 3.5. Romney’s is – 16. That’s right, – 16. Hell even the repubs dont like the dude and they are about to nominate him to run for president.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    The fact that the Obama campaign could be accused of being overconfident is comment enough on the election. In another reality, he could be riding the same wave of media consignment that Bush I had at his back, replete with a fatigue about the old guard of politicians and tired voices and so on.

    Instead, Obama, surrounded by Goldman Sachs and moderates turned-on by budget cutting and austerity, will come off as something as a populist with new solutions in contrast to the GOP and Romney.

  10. James in LA says:

    This is simply the wrong model to use to predict election results. When it becomes clear Obama’s opponent has no governing policies which attract a majority combined with zero governing achievements on which to run, the question turns to, do I want this person in charge of unspeakable power? All things remaining as they are, Obama will win handily. Mitt Romney is a complete disaster for the GOP, perhaps even worse than Sarah Palin because he is still taken seriously. Words matter and his have been consistently terrible.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:


    I take a lot of these polls this far out with a pinch of salt but to the extent that they are to regarded as a portent what’s significant about them is the consistency of Obama’s appro. It’s in the mid 40’s which is where it’s been for nearly three years with occasional blips down to the low forties and up to low fifties. Given the economic trauma the country has gone through these are a pretty sound base as even the martyr of Ekaterinburg aknowledges. There’s a long way to go yet and there’s always “Events dear boy, events” but his team have to be feeling reasonably happy with the state of play. I noticed this morning the auto market opened strongly annualising at over 14 million units (one of my bellwethers) so as of right now the slow upward trajectory of the economy looks set to continue.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    I’m happy to see anything that keeps Democrats scared. I want us scared.

  13. Cycloptichorn says:

    What a ridiculous metric to try and project an election by.

    PPP polled Obama up in OH on Romney +7 yesterday. In fact, Romney has led only ONE poll in OH out of the last TWENTY taken, and that by just +1. To just throw that state into the Romney column in such a manner belies a great ignorance on the part of the author.

    And putting Oregon and PA in the red column, what is this guy smoking? The odds of that outcome are extremely low.

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Fear is good Michael…and I say that as parent

  15. James in LA says:

    @michael reynolds: Fear is the surest sign yet I’ve encountered that I am, indeed, alive.

  16. The flaw in the logic hear is the assumption that someone who disapproves of the job Obama is doing will necessarily vote for the Republican candidate. A lot of people may not like the job Obama is doing in an absolute sense, but still consider him relatively preferable to Romney or Gingrich.

  17. Rob in CT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Similar to looking at a loosely-defined disapproval of the ACA healthcare law and deciding that a majority would favor repeal (w/o replacement). A chunk of that dissatisfaction comes from the lefties who wanted single-payer. Offered a choice between the flawed Dem reform and electing the GOP… most will hold their noses and hope for more reform in the future. A tiny % will be pissed enough to just not vote.

    So there are plenty of us who are pissed about various things the Dems have/have not done, but we know that the GOP will be as bad or worse on those topics and worse on others. Thus you get a LOTE vote for Obama (or, in my case since I’m in a safe Dem state, a third-party candidate).

  18. Peacewood says:

    He’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
    He’s anglin’ for a stranglin’.
    He’s totterin’ for a slaughterin’.
    He’s bleatin’ for a beatin’.
    He’s aimin’ for a maimin’.
    He’s brayin’ for a flayin’.

    …okay, I’m spent.

  19. David M says:

    If the author wanted the map taken seriously, the least he could have done was use more current numbers rather than all of 2011. It actually might have been an interesting map if he’d left any states as toss-ups and fixed the obvious silliness like suggesting Obama will lose Oregon.

  20. anjin-san says:

    He’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
    He’s anglin’ for a stranglin’.
    He’s totterin’ for a slaughterin’.
    He’s bleatin’ for a beatin’.
    He’s aimin’ for a maimin’.
    He’s brayin’ for a flayin’.

    All good efforts, but I can summarize the right’s entire hope for America in one line”

    He’s black, and he ain’t coming back…

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    It’s been my opinion for some time the odds of re-election are against Obama. No other american president had his skin color held against him, and the racists have been chomping at the bit to pay him back for taking away their right not to have a black man in the White House.

  22. Jr says:

    @Ben Wolf: Polling and the electoral map says other wise. Obama has already 255 EC locked up if you want to believe PPP, which has been the most accurate polling company the past two years.

    Obama’s reelection isn’t set into stone, but the amount of trouble he is in has been greatly exaggerate.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    If the Republicans want to be taken seriously, they’re going to have come up with a better policy to run on than “tax cuts and a war with Iran!”