Obama's Still Unpopular in the States That Will Matter

In the states that matter, his approval rating is low, low, low

Much is made about how President Obama is suddenly popular again, but this rests on a faulty assumption: that the national polls actually matter at this stage in the presidential campaign.

They don’t, but state polls do and Obama is in trouble in all but three of them. In all but three states–Minnesota, Connecticut, and Wyoming–Obama’s approval rating has declined from 2010 to 2011, according to Gallup‘s state-by-state comparison. In Wyoming, his approval rating had nowhere to go but up. He won Connecticut and Minnesota in 2008, so there’s not much of a gain here, though he is under the 50% mark in Minnesota.

In Ohio, Obama sits at 42.1% approval, while in Pennsylvania and Florida he is at 45% and 43.6% approval rating respectively. Obama won all three states in 2008.

In addition to those key swing states, the states that Obama won, he is below 50% in Maine (47.2%), Wisconsin (47.4%), Minnesota (47.7%), Michigan (48.1%), Iowa (45.6%), Virginia (44.5%), New Hampshire (38.7%), Washington (47.6%), North Carolina (43.7%), Oregon (44.5%), Indiana (40.1%), Colorado (40.4%), Nevada (41.3%), New Mexico (41.7%), and Rhode Island (49.2%). Even if one assumes that Obama wins all of those states over 45%, he will lose the general election overwhelmingly. The map will essentially be a slightly more Republican one from 2004.

The decline in his popularity was most pronounced in his home state of Hawaii, where, though he is still over 50%, nearly ten percent of Hawaiians gave him a lower approval rating than they did before. Add to that that the popular former governor, Linda Lingle, is running for U.S. Senate and you have a recipe for him losing his home state, much the same way Charles Djou won Obama’s home congressional district in May 2010 (only to lose it in November 2010.)

So will Obama win in 2012? It’s difficult to say because so many Americans haven’t yet been paying attention to presidential race and don’t know the candidates. And why should they? Though we might disapprove morally, a lot of people don’t have time to follow politics in its day to day operations. Many don’t bother voting until the general election which is nearly nine months away. The match ups between Obama and the other presidential candidates are therefore misleading. We don’t know the presidential candidates yet, but we do know President Obama. That’s why the cratering of his polling numbers is forcing him to do the one thing he knows well: go negative.

Sure, turnout may be down relative to 2008, but that was a historic election where many people took pride in the possibility of the first black or woman president. There’s simply no indication that the turn out machine will spring into action. How do I know that’s the case? Well, look what happened in 2010. It was the largest blowout since the 1920s.

Is a similar thing possible in 2012? Yes, but it will involve keeping the eye on the prize. Try not to get too dizzy with the poll numbers the mainstream media keeps trying to spin.