Romney tops GOP '12 field

Mitt Romney continues to lead the pack of potential Republican challengers to President Obama in 2012, while more Democrats are starting to favor a new candidate. 

Romney has the support of 21 percent of respondents in a new CNN/Opinion Research poll released Friday. Sarah Palin was the respondents' second favorite at 18 percent and Newt Gingrich was third with 15 percent. The survey of close to 500 Republicans was conducted Aug. 6-10, which means it doesn't reflect any possible fallout from Marianne Gingrich's interview with Esquire magazine.

Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee fell from being the pack leader in April with 24 percent to getting only 14 percent in the new poll.

On the Democratic side, there was a slight uptick in respondents preferring a "different candidate" to Obama in 2012. Back in March, 20 percent said they would like a new nominee, while now 23 percent favor a candidate change. The White House has recently been engaged in a public war of words with the "professional left," but even his liberal critics doubt a candidate will step forward to launch a primary challenge to Obama.


Party identification edge erodes for Democrats

More states are set to be politically competitive in 2010 as fewer voters are identifying as Democrats.

New numbers from Gallup show 10 fewer states are considered “solid Democratic” this year compared to 2009, while an additional three states are now considered “solid Republican.”

The most politically competitive states in 2010, according to Gallup: Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Virginia. Each has a party ID gap of less than a single point.  

“The key finding at this juncture is that Democrats, not Republicans, have been the net losers as Americans shift away from the major parties,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport. “The overall result is a more competitive partisan environment this year than has been the case in the last two years, underscoring the potential for Republicans to do well and pick up seats in this year’s midterm elections.”

One caveat from Gallup — the state classifications are based on the political affiliations of “all residents,” not registered voters in a state. 

The results are based on interviews of more than 175,000 adults taken as part of Gallup’s daily tracking between January and June of this year.  

Nationwide, Democrats hold a 4-point party ID edge over Republicans this year — 44 percent to 40 percent. That’s down from the 8-point advantage the party held in 2009 and the 12-point edge it had in 2008.


Poll: Obama approval at 44 percent

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds President Obama’s approval rating at the lowest point of his presidency. The poll found 44 percent of voters approve of the job Obama is doing, while 48 percent disapprove.

Among independents the gap is even wider — 52 percent disapprove to just 38 percent who approve of Obama’s performance.

A Q-poll in May found 48 percent of voters approving of the president, while 43 disapproved. Voters disapprove of the president’s handling of almost every major issue polled, from the economy to the Gulf oil spill to illegal immigration. Voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy 56 percent to 39 percent. On illegal immigration, voters disapprove by a margin of 58-30 percent.

Against an unnamed Republican candidate for president in 2012, Obama is behind 39 percent to 36 percent, with 13 percent of respondents saying it would depend on who the GOP candidate is. 

“In politics a month is a lifetime, and we have 28 months until November of 2012. But politicians with reelect numbers at 40 percent bear watching,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 

One piece of good news for the president out of these latest numbers — by a margin of 42 percent to 32 percent, voters said Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush.


Gallup: Dems take 6-point lead in generic ballot

A new Gallup poll appears to offer some good midterm news for Democrats.

The party has jumped out to a six-point lead on the generic ballot question — Democrats lead 49 percent to 43 percent over Republicans in Gallup’s latest tracking data.

It’s the first statistically significant difference Gallup has measured on the question since it began weekly tracking in March. 

The survey polled 1,535 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points. Gallup doesn’t screen for likely voters until closer to election day.

A couple of things might dampen Democratic enthusiasm with these numbers. While the generic ballot question is generally a solid indicator of a broader national trend, this is still a sample of registered voters, not of likely voters. 

And Republican enthusiasm for this fall’s elections spiked in the latest tracking — a full 51 percent of Republicans said they are “very enthusiastic” about voting in 2010. That’s up from 40 percent a week ago.

Democratic enthusiasm remained unchanged from a week ago, with 28 percent of Democrats saying they are “very enthusiastic.”

Gallup points to the passage of Wall Street reform as the likely cause of the shift. Gallup noted a similar increase in Republican enthusiasm right after passage of the healthcare bill.

But if financial reform gave Democrats a bounce on the generic ballot and among independents, as Gallup suggests, the numbers don’t indicate it did much to motivate the party’s own voters. 


More than 80 percent see problem with two-party system

A majority of voters see problems with the two-party political system, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

According to the poll, more than 80 percent of people have a problem with the current system, with 31 percent advocating for a third party. Only 15 percent believe the two-party system works fairly well.

The poll was taken May 6-10 and will be released in full Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, a new Public Policy poll is gives President Barack Obama his highest approval rating since October.

The poll shows that 50 percent give the president a favorable rating while 46 percent disapprove. 


Sestak narrows the gap with Specter

Multiple polls now show that in the aftermath of Sestak's first paid media blitz, the congressman has come within single digits of the former Republican senator in their Democratic primary in two weeks.

A Quinnipiac poll today shows Specter leading 47-39, and polls from Rasmussen and Muhlenberg College also show him within single digits. 

Quinnipiac's numbers are particularly noteworthy, given that they showed Specter leading 53-32 a month ago. Since then, however, Sestak has begun to unleash his $5 million war chest, and it appears to have paid some dividends.

But much is yet-to-be-determined. Nearly half of voters don't know Sestak well enough to rate his favorability, while Specter is almost universally known.

Look for this race to get dirty in the short time before the May 18 primary. Specter is known as a brawler, and he's got a fight on his hands.