Opinion: Shocker polls: That Sarah Palin-Barack Obama gap melts to <em>1</em> point


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Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, look what the pollsters just brought in.

A pair of new surveys revealing that President Obama is still declining and has hit a new low in job approval among Americans just 56 weeks after they elected him with a decided margin.

A Top of the Ticket post Tuesday on the relative popularity of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama erred in stating in the text and the headline that there was a Palin-Obama gap of 1 point. Two separate polls were cited, as the post notes, so the findings are not directly comparable.

And -- wait for it -- Republican Sarah Palin is successfully selling a whole lot more than books out there on the road. Even among those not lining up in 10-degree weather to catch a glimpse of pretty much the only political celebrity the GOP has these days. First, el jefe. Facing double-digit unemployment, rising spending, deficits and Afghan war casualties plus a keystone but stalled healthcare reform effort that caused a rare Sunday presidential visit to Capitol Hill, Obama recently fell below 50% job approval for the first time.


Then, last week’s deft dance of rhetoric over sending reinforcements to Afghanistan but, on the other foot, bringing them home quickly maybe gave him a brief boost. That, however, collapsed with equal rapidity.

Obama’s new Gallup Poll job approval number is 47%. Last month it was 53%.

Regular Ticket readers will recall how in this space in late November we pointed out that Obama’s closely watched job approval slide was coinciding with Palin’s little-noticed rise in favorability. And it appeared they might cross somewhere in the 40s.

Well, ex-Sen. Obama, meet ex-Gov. Palin.

The new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows Palin now at 46% favorable. [A previous version of this post said that, at 46%, Palin was “just one point below her fellow basketball fan.’ The CNN/Opinion Research Poll did not ask respondents about Obama.]

(The same poll, btw, has bad news for Dick Cheney-haters; the outspoken former VP has climbed out of the 29% basement, back up to 39% now. How do you suppose he’s done that without a new book? But that’s another story.)

Not that either Palin or Obama will admit caring about such trivial things as disparate political polls....

...1,071 days before the 2012 election, when Republicans will have the concept of change on their side. Obama’s camp is already using the looming Palin pall as a fundraising tool. Never let any potential threat go unmonetized.


The new numbers seem to indicate that despite oft-cited predictions about the dire impact of Palin resigning her Alaska governor’s job in July, a lot of people who don’t live in Alaska (and, come to think of it, most people don’t live in Alaska) don’t seem to care. She wasn’t their governor then and she still isn’t.

Palin’s low favorable poll point of 39% came right after the midsummer resignation and she’s been slowly climbing since, fueled by media attention, eager reader response over her book contents, her tour and the spontaneous outpouring of support at her carefully-calculated bus stops along the way -- 31 appearances in 25 states, many of them politically crucial.

Imagine what critics would be saying now if Palin was neglecting her elected Juneau job to sell books in the Lower 48 and talk to an elite club of Washington journalists, if there is such a thing.

The view, Palin told the capital’s Gridiron Club Saturday night in her self-deprecating and at times pointed remarks (full text right here), is a whole lot better from inside the bus than from under it.

Palin critics -- and, by golly, there still are some, believe it or not -- say that she’s a polarizing political figure.

And they’re dead-on correct: 46% like her (including eight of 10 Republicans), 46% don’t (including seven of 10 Democrats) and only 8% are undecided (no doubt including many who’ve been living underground since John McCain unveiled his VP GOP running mate in Dayton, Ohio, some15 months ago).

But here’s the fascinating, little-noticed catch:

The very same polarization now holds true for Obama, the fresh fellow from the old Chicago Democratic machine who was supposed to bring hope and change to a nation tired of divisive politics and the harsh partisan tone of Washington.


Fully 83% of Democrats approve of him, but only 14% of Republicans do.

Among independents, who provided the crucial winning boost for the Democratic ticket in November 2008, Obama’s support has melted to 42% today, in large part over immense spending and deficit concerns.

And as political veteran Dave Cook points out over on the Vote blog, just since last month, 3% of Obama’s own Democrats have abandoned his ship, another 4% of Republicans and fully 7% of independents.

Other recent polls have shown Republicans leading for the first time this year on the generic congressional ballot and self-identified Republicans closing the gap with self-identified Democrats.

Meanwhile, Palin continued her book/celebrity sales tour across the heartland, stopping Sunday in -- oh, look! -- Iowa. ‘No politician comes to Iowa by accident,’ Republican strategist Tim Albrecht told AP’s Mike Glover.

More significantly, Palin was in western Iowa, which is ruled by the Republican Party, which in the Hawkeye state these days is ruled by conservative evangelicals, who form a large chunk of Palin’s evolving base. As another ex-governor, Mitt Romney, learned to his dismay in the 2008 GOP caucuses won by another ex-governor (and Baptist preacher), Mike Huckabee.

Obviously, not every politician visiting Iowa each election cycle ends up running for president. And not every Iowa winner collects the big prize. But no one gets to the White House without going to Iowa. Which Palin has now done on her own. Purportedly selling a book.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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