Commentary Magazine


Why Obama’s Slipping Nationally

Despite the Democratic Party’s determined efforts to paint Republicans as out-of-touch with the mainstream (particularly on contraception issues, women’s rights and foreign policy), President Obama’s numbers are sliding in general election matchups with the GOP candidates, according to the latest Rasmussen and Washington Post-ABC News polls.

Rasmussen found that Obama is now trailing Mitt Romney by five points, while WaPo/ABC found him tied with both Romney and Santorum.


Both polls cite different reasons for Obama’s weakened standing. Rasmussen finds that Romney’s support has increased among Republicans, and he’s attracting in more defectors from the opposing party than Obama is:

Romney’s support among Republican voters has moved up to 83 percent, just about matching the president’s 84 percent support among Democrats. However, only six percent of GOP voters would vote for Obama if Romney is the nominee. Twice as many Democrats (12 percent) would cross party lines to vote for Romney. The former governor of Massachusetts also has an eight-point advantage among unaffiliated voters.

The numbers show that Obama needs to focus more on getting his own party in line, before he can start reaching out to independent voters and Republicans. But so far, the attempts to paint Romney and the GOP as extreme on social issues, unsympathetic to the middle class, and recklessly aggressive on foreign policy haven’t seemed to have much impact.

Another problem for the Obama campaign is that, despite the positive economic news over the past couple of months, the president still gets low ratings on economic performance. This seems to be because rising gas prices is replacing unemployment as a major personal financial concern. According to the WaPo poll:

Gas prices are a main culprit: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation at the pump, where rising prices have already hit hard. Just 26 percent approve of his work on the issue, his lowest rating in the poll. Most Americans say higher prices are already taking a toll on family finances, and nearly half say they think that prices will continue to rise, and stay high.

Obama had been trying to play both sides of the fence on Keystone XL construction until last week, when he actively lobbied against a Senate bill that would move the pipeline project forward. Unless he flips on this issue, it’s going to dog his campaign as long as gas prices keep rising. Nobody expects gas prices to drop immediately if the Keystone XL gets the green light, but the public wants to hear some long-term plan for dealing with rising gas prices – temporary credits aren’t going to cut it.