A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, he could very well beat Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Romney actually slightly edges out Obama in the poll of likely voters (49–46), but the difference isn’t enough to be statistically significant. Obama is particularly vulnerable on the economy (no surprise there), and Republican operatives in at least one key swing state have already rolled out the economic attack ads against him. And remember when Obama swaggered away from the podium after announcing Osama Bin Laden’s death? Voters don’t. The nine-point popularity bump he enjoyed afterward has entirely disappeared.
The rather charmingly named Frustration Index (like something out of a Nate Silver kids’ book, American Voters and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Decade), which measures anti-incumbent sentiment and general dissatisfaction with the federal government, is just about as high as it was at the 2010 midterms, which did not exactly go well for Democrats. It’s also 30 points higher among Republican voters than Democrats. So while Republicans aren’t thrilled with Romney’s record on health care in particular, they appear ready to grit their teeth and ignore it, given the other options.
If Romney doesn’t win the Republican primaries, the news is better for Obama. Voters remain apathetic on the GOP primary field: Against Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, or Jon Huntsman, he’s polling as a winner. (The surprisingly popular Herman Cain and unsurprisingly unpopular Gary Johnson got the cold shoulder from pollsters.) A full 64 percent of respondents “definitely” would not vote for Palin in a general election, despite the fact that she’s second only to Romney among likely GOP primary voters. Obama might want to consider trailing the Palin bus tour with “Run, Sarah, Run!” signs.