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Here’s the worst news Obama has gotten this week, courtesy of the Democratic polling outfit, PPP, in a poll commissioned by the Daily Kos:
Obama has hit a record low approval rating 3 weeks in a row now. He's gone from 43/53 to 42/53 to now 42/54 in our poll this week.
PPP says he’s at a new low with union members, people under 30, women, and the usually dependable Northeasterners.
But that’s only the beginning. The news gets even worse:
Obama trails a generic opponent 48-44 on our national poll this week, including 51-37 with independents. (emphasis added)
The authors go on to say Obama should hope that Perry is worse than a generic, and they offer some hope by saying he doesn’t do well with independents.
Last week, Gallup had Perry polling ahead of Obama and practically on par with Romney among independents, and Pew had Perry doing better with all registered voters than a supposed moderate favorite, Jon Huntsman.
Romney’s advisors plan to strike against Perry on the belief that he won’t do well with independents, according to Marc Thiessen.
This must be based on the belief that, first, the mainstream media’s insistence that Perry doesn’t do well with independents is true despite the polls, and second, Romney has polled well among independents, too.
The first part of the belief is suspect. The second is true.
But can Romney out-perform Perry on this front?
Maybe not as well as he’d think. Why? Read Jonathan Last’s description of Romney’s overall problem: he has no core constituency.
Last’s is the best recent account of Romney’s overall weakness. He picks apart Romney’s electoral past and concludes:
The greatest danger to Romney’s candidacy is that he has no constituency because he’s not very good at campaigning and, as the electoral results of the last 17 years have shown, voters don’t like him very much. The danger to the Romney candidacy is the candidate. At the end of the day, the only committed Romney voters out there are his co-religionists (see the 2007 Utah primary where he took 89% of the vote) and people who have written books about him.
Last’s account is compelling, but maybe things will break differently with Romney this time. The big question right now is how moderate voters will behave in 2012.
Leaving the Republican primary aside, we should ask a few questions about independents:
Be pro-spending cuts but want to preserve Medicare and Social Security as they are? Then they’ll be inclined to support Romney.
Be pro-spending cuts and receptive to tough talk on entitlements to reduce the deficit? Then they’ll go for Perry.
Be pro-spending and pro-entitlements? Then they’ll break for Obama.
The candidates themselves will have a lot to do with shaping voters’ views on the issues by how they talk about them. For instance, conventional elite wisdom would assume that Perry’s Ponzi scheme comment about Social Security will alienate moderates, but it could well endear them as it plays to their distrust of government overall. Obama's continued class warfare meme hasn't helped him with independents so far, so he'll have to try something else. These issues will be up for grabs for awhile.
Together with the issue of limiting the government’s reach, the other big factor of course will be the confidence each candidate instills regarding the economy. Right now, this is a big drag for Obama. He himself has no core constituency on economic issues. And presently, it appears that Perry’s Texas record is at least as impressive to people as Romney’s private sector executive experience.
Because Perry is stronger with primary voters on a number of fronts than Romney, and because he does better with independents than the media keeps saying, he continues to be the 2012 force to be reckoned with.