Obama Poll Ratings Are Improving, but Still Vulnerable

President Obama’s approval rating ranks low compared to those of recent incumbents, a new CNN poll reveals.

The poll was released Tuesday and found that Obama’s overall approval rating remains in the mid-40s. As of right now, 46 percent of registered voters approve of the president’s job performance while 52 percent disapprove. Obama has been polling these numbers since mid-summer.

This is not a good sign for a president who wants to win re-election in 2012. Compared to his recent predecessors who ran for a second term, Obama’s poll numbers only rank higher than that of Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in November, one year from voting day. Both Carter and Ford lost their re-election bids. According to CNN and Gallup, most incumbents who get re-elected have an approval rating above 50 percent one year out from the election.

“[This] is not a strong position for an incumbent president. Our country is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats with a small group of pure independents who will determine the winner of the contest,” Karlyn Bowman, scholar at American Enterprise Institute, told The Christian Post.

Indeed, the CNN poll reveals that approximately 75 percent of Democrats express approval of Obama’s track record while merely 15 percent of Republicans do. According to the poll, by a 54 to 42 percent margin, independent voters disapprove of the president’s job performance.

“So it isn’t surprising that the country shows pretty even matchups between, let’s say, Romney and Obama. In some polls, Romney leads, in others Obama leads,” said Bowman. “The President will be spending a lot of time on the campaign trail. He and his election team realize his vulnerability.”

“If Americans decide – and a large number have already decided – that the president doesn’t deserve re-election, they then ask themselves whether they could vote for his opponent.”

While Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has always been thought of as the GOP candidate with the best odds of beating Obama, a McClatchy-Marist Poll released Tuesday indicates that Newt Gingrich may have the upper-hand in a head-to-head hypothetical match against Obama. Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, is down only by two percentage points as Obama leads him at 47 percent, inside the 3 percent margin of error.

Romney comes in second, falling behind Obama by 4 percentage points.

Gingrich’s campaign was written off by many pundits in May when his staff fell apart. However, he has been steadily climbing in the polls after businessman Herman Cain’s top-tier status began to fade in light of sexual allegations against him.

"If this fall has been about anything, it's been the search for the anyone-but-Romneyalternative," Lee Miringoff, director of Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told The Miami Herald .

"Clearly the next two weeks will be telling whether this is fleeting for Gingrich, or is he now the person around whom the more conservative elements of the party will coalesce."

However, Bowman does not seem to think Gingrich is what conservatives really want.

“Gingrich is doing well because other Republicans have faltered. I think he would have trouble with many independent voters.”

Both Romney and Gingrich have tradeoffs: in order for Gingrich to win the general election he will have to garner independent votes, something Romney is better at. For Romney, he will have to galvanize the conservative base, something that Gingrich is better at.

Finding a formidable candidate to run against Obama is essential to the GOP’s hope of gaining the presidency. As of right now, it is not enough for the Republican candidate to run on an “I’m not Barack Obama” campaign slogan; the president still shows signs of vitality among the general population despite a 9 percent unemployment rate. For the first time in months, the president beats a generic Republican candidate in a national hypothetical election. Granted he wins by one percentage point, 45 to 44 percent, which is within the 2 percent margin of error. However this is still a huge gain for him considering he’s been trailing the generic republican by several points for weeks now.