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Morning Jay: Obama on Thin Ice

6:00 AM, Apr 11, 2012 • By JAY COST
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Yesterday, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll seemed to confirm the meme that Barack Obama is pummeling Mitt Romney among women, helping the former open up a 7-point lead in the general election horse race.

Barack Obama thinking, first day in the Oval Office

What to make of this?

Well, for starters, the poll has an inexplicably large Democratic advantage – the party breakdown in the poll is 34 percent Democratic, 23 percent Republican, and 34 percent independent. As a point of historical comparison, the party spread in four of the last five elections since 2002 has basically been an even split between the two sides. In 2008, a “perfect storm” of bad news for the GOP, the party ID advantage was “only” +7. So, a Democratic advantage of +11 is an unjustifiable number, at least in terms of what the electorate is thinking.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey did a solid job of dressing down the pollsters for such an absurd Democratic skew, and I encourage you to read his response carefully. I’ll just add that I am always amused when pollsters find an advantage for Democratic candidates that is less than their Democratic oversample. In this case, ABC News/WaPo finds Obama’s job approval at +5 (50 percent approve to 45 percent disapprove), but that is not nearly so impressive in a D+11 sample!

Polls like this are useful, however, in a kind of “Nixon goes to China” sense. Put another way, if Democrats look weak in polls that are so ridiculously pro-Democratic, you know they are in trouble.

And so it goes with President Obama in this poll. He enjoyed some nice headlines from it because of his nominal lead over Mitt Romney, but look underneath the hood and you will see bad news for the commander in chief.

First, his overall job approval is at 50 percent, but how does he fare on the issues that people are worried about right now? Those numbers are not so rosy.

Notice the strongly disapprove number on gas prices, and keep in mind that only about a quarter of this poll is Republican. The implication is that the president must be doing terribly with independent voters on this issue.  His numbers on the economy are somewhat better, but -10 overall is still a rotten place to be if the goal is to win reelection. Again, he must be doing very badly with independent voters to have such a bad number in such a pro-Democratic sample.

Historically, presidents have usually won reelection by convincing the country that good times are back, and here to stay. Unfortunately for Obama, there is nowhere near that sentiment in America right now.

Here are the right track/wrong track numbers:

And here, interestingly, is the number of people who think the recession is over:

Some presidents have managed to win when the public mood is not positive. For instance, Abraham Lincoln won in 1864 during the hell of the Civil War, campaigning on the slogan of “don’t change horses in midstream.” More recently, polls from 2004 suggested an even split among voters as to whether the country was headed in the right direction, and George W. Bush still won.

So it is possible for an incumbent to win during bad times, but Obama’s numbers on the key issues of the day suggest big trouble for him. The whole idea of the old Lincoln slogan is that, though times were bad, he was the best bet for the country over the next four years.

Directly to that point, check out the answers voters give to whom they trust more on the big issues, Obama or Romney.

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