[Posted by Karl]
ABC News Political Director Amy Walter and ABC pollster Gary Langer, shaking the pom-poms:
President Obama is holding onto a 7 point lead over his chief Republican rival, Mitt Romney, in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll.
If the 2012 election were held today, 51 percent of adults said they would pick Obama compared to 44 percent who would support the former Massachusetts governor. (They were tied in early June.) Important to note, however, is that among registered voters, Obama’s lead over Romney narrows to 49 percent to 47 percent. No other Republican challenger fares as well as Romney in head-to-head matchups against the president. http://abcn.ws/nUXx7F
But there’s a bigger take away from the new numbers than just the 2012 horserace.
“Obama looks to have turned the budget debate to his advantage,” writes ABC pollster Gary Langer. “His position on the deficit is more broadly popular, he’s taking less heat than the GOP for unwillingness to compromise and he’s got a sizable lead in the view that he cares more about protecting the middle class.”
So what? Obama’s stance in the debt ceiling talks is all about his re-election campaign. The other metrics don’t matter unless they help Obama’s bottom line. And the bottom line is that the current GOP front-runner is within the margin of error in the head-to-head matchup with registered voters.
Of course, the head-to-head numbers themselves are not particularly predictive this far from an election. Rather, the spin being put out by Langer — and most of the rest of the establishment media — is all about framing a narrative for the race to come. Establishment media polling does not always have this agenda, but it is fairly blatant in this instance.
For example, Langer relies on his poll to claim Obama’s position on the deficit is broadly popular, when the White House boasts that Obama doesn’t have a plan. Meanwhile, CNN buries the overwhelming popularity of the GOP “Cut, Cap & Balance” plan in its own coverage. The WSJ/NBC poll (.pdf) asks whether the GOP should drop its opposition to “any taxes, including on corporations and the wealthy,” if it that is the only way to reach a deal, but fails to ask whether Obama should drop his insistence on roughly $1 trillion in new taxes if that is the only way to get a deal. Nor does the establishment media ask whether Obama should give up his trillion-dollar ObamaCare entitlement to get a debt deal. The answer to either question would likely not advance the establishment narrative of the “adult” president facing down an intransigent House GOP.
You know who isn’t narrative-building? Tom Jensen of PPP, the Democratic firm that polls for the Daily Kos. PPP has Obama and Romney tied at 45%, but that’s not the main reason why Jensen is concerned:
Obama’s numbers are worse than they appear to be on the surface. The vast majority of the undecideds in all of these match ups disapprove of the job Obama’s doing but aren’t committing to a candidate yet while they wait to see how the Republican field shakes out.
Jensen then allocates the undecideds based on their approval/disapproval of Obama, finding Romney would lead 52-48. Moreover, Obama would lead Bachmann only 51-49, tie Pawlenty at 50, lead Cain by only 51-49, and lead Palin 54-46. In short, Obama is already threatened by almost any GOP nominee (unless you can really tarnish his or her image, which will be the Obama/media approach in 2012).
But wait… there’s more. Presidential candidates have to win states to get those Electoral College votes. Reuters has noticed that Obama faces a tough fight in various key states, but the reporting is largely anecdotal. Thus, let’s look at recent state polling:
Florida (29 EV): Romney leads 46-42 [Sunshine State, 7/12]
Iowa (7 EV): Romney leads 47-44 [Mason-Dixon, 7/14]
Michigan (16 EV): Romney leads 46-42 [EPIC-MRA, 7/15]
New Hampshire (4 EV): Romney leads 46-44 [PPP, 7/7], Romney leads 47-43 [WMUR, 7/6]
North Carolina (15 EV): Romney tied 45-45 [PPP, 7/13], Perry leads 45-42 [Civitas, 7/18]
Ohio (18 EV): Obama leads 45-41, but voters split on re-elect 46-47 [Quinnipiac, 7/21]
Pennsylvania (20 EV): Romney tied 44-44 [PPP, 7/8]
If the economy remains about as weak as it is — and it seems like it will — Obama is going to have to scare a lot of undecided voters to get to 270 Electoral College votes in 2012. In that task, it seems that Obama will have an establishment media applauding loud enough to raise Tinkerbell from the dead.