Today’s Washington Post-ABC News Poll is being touted by Democrats as a key moment in the 2012 election because for the first time, President Obama is shown as getting over the 50 percent mark in terms of job approval and in a head-to-head matchup with Mitt Romney. These are encouraging numbers for the president, but Democrats shouldn’t start mailing out inaugural ball tickets just yet. A close reading of the poll as well as the political context in which it was taken shows that the president is still highly vulnerable on a number of issues, leaving likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney still in position to make a strong challenge this fall.
First, it should be noted that the poll is only of adults, not registered voters, let alone likely voters, so its results should be taken with a shovelful of salt. The poll sample is also skewed to the left as the respondents’ party affiliation showed 34 percent Democrats to only 23 percent Republicans, figures that do not reflect most national samples of party loyalties. Just as important, the poll shows widespread dissatisfaction with the president’s handling of the economy, no confidence that a recovery from the last recession has occurred as well as a belief that the country is on the wrong track. There is no question that Obama’s position is far stronger than it seemed a few months ago. But given that the full impact of rising gas prices has not yet been felt in the country and that Romney is only now just emerging as the GOP standard-bearer after almost a year of non-stop bashing from his party opponents, these results ought not cause Democrats to celebrate too much or cause too much despair among Republicans.