For the ninth straight month Public Policy Polling released a series of 2012 presidential trial heat polls matching President Obama up against four prospective Republican candidates. And despite the fact that Obama slipped below 50% for the first time in a few polls this past week (see Gallup, Quinnipiac, PPP), the president wasn't in any significantly different position relative to the Republicans than he was a month ago; just under 50% against all but Sarah Palin and still ahead across the board. Yet, this month while Mike Huckabee remained the closest to the president, he was not alone in that distinction. Mitt Romney climbed to within five points of the president as well, climbing above the 40% mark for the first time in any PPP poll this year.
Obama: 49%That said, Huckabee does better consolidating the conservative and Republican bases. Romney, however, nearly evenly divides the independent support with the president. And that really demonstrates the current tension within the GOP; the battle we've been talking about here at FHQ since Obama claimed victory a year ago. Will Republicans nominate someone in 2012 from a far more conservative background than, say, John McCain, or will efforts be made to make the party's nominee more inviting to independent voters? That continues to be the question as 2009 draws to a close.
Obama: 51%What's more, this poll from PPP is not without its quirks. [No poll ever is, really.] First, the same bizarre regional disparity that popped up in the polling firm's July poll again reared its head this month. Obama inexplicably swept the South (except for a tie with Ron Paul) again while losing out completely in the midwest. I can foresee the midwest potentially being a problem for Obama in 2012, but there's absolutely no way that the South is vulnerable to Obama inroads; not even if Steve Schmidt's catastrophe occurs. Palin, indeed, proves to be trailing by the largest margin (a distinction shared with Ron Paul), but still loses the South while winning the midwest against the president.
Obama: 46%If that wasn't enough, Paul actually pulls Obama's support to its lowest level in any of PPP's surveys this year. But is that Ron Paul's impact or is the Texas congressman merely serving, as I asked earlier today, as a proxy for a generic Republican in a hypothetical race against Obama? There are enough undecideds in that match up to raise that question. Independents are not necessarily on board with Paul, but Democrats are least with Obama against Paul than against any other Republican in the survey. As Christian Heinze at GOP12 asked, "Is an Anybody But Obama theme starting to take hold?" Intriguing as that question is, FHQ is almost more interested in a slightly different question: Is an Anybody but Huckabee/Palin/Romney theme starting. Certainly, neither question is being answered very adequately at this point, not in the direct context of the 2012 race anyway. Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush and especially Tim Pawlenty did not see anywhere near the numbers Paul has in this particular poll. And I say "especially" in Pawlenty's case because he doesn't carry the baggage that Gingrich and Bush carry and is unknown enough to potentially fill the void of generic Republican in a ballot question. But Pawlenty from last month lags well behind Paul's numbers here.
Obama: 48%All in all, it was another interesting round of numbers from the good folks over in Raleigh. Ron Paul may have earned a spot in next month's poll simply due to his showing here. We'll see.
NOTE: And just as a bonus, here's the updated Obama/Gingrich trendline. And no, it isn't so much an update as a reminder that Gingrich has not been polled against Obama since August.
PPP: 2012 Presidential Trial Heats: Huckabee's Still on Top but He's Got Company
Update on GOP Temporary Delegate Selection Committee Meeting
Ex Post Facto: Why Do New Jersey and Virginia Have Those Off-Off Year Elections Anyway?