Notwithstanding small ups and downs that accompany news stories like the killing of bin Laden or the unemployment figures of the day, the overall trend is that voters are steadily giving up on the Obama presidency. That is reflected in Scott Rasmussen’s Approval Index, which compares the president’s “strong approval” and “strong disapproval” numbers. What makes this particular index important is that it is one of the few that consistently sample likely voters rather than registered voters or whoever answers the telephone.
Currently, Obama’s Approval Index stands at -22, which I believe equals his lowest ever. A solid plurality of voters, 42%, strongly disapprove of his performance:
Overall, only 43% of likely voters approve of Obama’s performance, while 55% disapprove.
When a president runs for re-election, the campaign should be, and nearly always is, a referendum on his performance. If that is the case in 2012, the Republican will win. The Democrats can’t defend Obama’s record, and they know it. They will try desperately to make the race about the Republican nominee rather than Obama’s performance; that strategy will fail if the GOP nominates a solid, mainstream candidate without obvious eccentricities or personal flaws. But it could well succeed if the GOP nominates someone who can be portrayed as eccentric or extreme, or who has personal flaws that come to light during the campaign.
As we have noted before, Scott and I disagree somewhat on the Republican presidential field. He thinks it is weak, while I think it is solidly representative of the party’s leadership and includes several potentially strong candidates. It is vitally important, in my view, that the party nominate one of those strong–i.e., mainstream, or, if you will, generic–candidates, and not take a flyer on a candidate who would serve as a distraction from the real issue in 2012, President Obama’s horrible record in office.