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.