Republicans Guaranteed To Win In 2012 If Nominee Is Named “Generic Republican”

The poll numbers look grim for the President, but it's still far too early to be making predictions about the 2012 elections.

A new CNN/Opinion Dymanics Poll has bad news for President Obama that isn’t necessarily good news for the current contenders for the Republican nomination in 2012:

Pres. Obama trails a generic GOPer in a WH ’12 re-election bid, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released today. Among registered voters, fully half, 50%, said they were more likely to vote for a generic GOPer, while just 45% said they were more likely to vote for Obama.

While the numbers are striking, the generic ballot at this stage doesn’t always mean the incumbent pres. is destined for just one term. Prior to his re-election bid, George W. Bush never trailed a generic Dem, according to trends from what was then the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. The closest a generic Dem came to Bush was 47-43% in Sept. ’03.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, trailed a generic opponent from the GOP by wide margins. In Dec. ’94, a month after his party was drubbed at the polls in the midterm elections, the generic GOP candidate led Clinton, 53-39%.

And, of course, we all know what happened to Bill Clinton in 1996.

More importantly, though, the poll numbers are quite different when you start asking voters about actual Republicans:

In a direct head to head between Obama and Romney the President leads 45-42


It’s a 47-44 contest against Huckabee. Obama leads Sarah Palin 49-43, Newt Gingrich 49-42, and Chris Christie 47-31.

It should be noted that this is from a separate poll, but it does show that the “Generic Republican” poll is basically just a referendum on the President himself, even more so than the pairings against individual candidates.

While it’s certainly possible that Barack Obama will be a one term President, it’s simply a wild-guess for anyone to say today that they know with certainty that he won’t be re-elected in November 2012. After all, even with the state of the economy, his approval numbers remain in the mid-to-high 40s and, as Gallup’s very informative Presidential Job Approval Center tools show, his approval numbers are higher at this point then either Carter’s, Reagan’s, or Clinton’s at comparable points in their Presidencies:

If you want to start making predictions about Barack Obama’s future, check back a year from now. If, at that point, the economy still hasn’t improved significantly and the future looks as grim as it does right now, then it will be a very tough road to re-election for the President. Until then, betting against an incumbent President would be foolish.

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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. PD Shaw says:

    But what if the Democrats nominate “Anybody But Bush”?

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    By the time 2012 gets here George W. Bush would beat Obama if he could run.  To compare Clinton to Obama is inaccurate.  Clinton had been an executive who knew how to govern.  Obama is a radical who knows only how to rule.  Clinton when saddled with a GOP congress moved to the center and let Republicans pass legislation.  Obama is an idealist who does not know how to compromise.  Cannot wait to watch a Palin Obama debate.  She will hand Obama his ass.

  3. john personna says:

    Is it because actual Republicans tend to be crazy?
    (Thanks Zelsdorf, for the illustration.)

  4. sam says:

    Cannot wait to watch a Palin Obama debate.

    Me, too.

  5. An Interested Party says:

    Ahh, but I suspect that many conservatives and Republicans aren’t looking forward to seeing that debate…