President Barack Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he'd lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
The biggest reason for Obama's fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November's midterm elections. At the same time, he's gained nothing among independents.
"He's having the worst of both worlds right now," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the national survey.
"As he moves to the center, he's not picking up support among independents and he's having some fall-off among his base. If his strategy is to gain independents and keep the Democrats in tow, it isn't working so far."
The poll was taken from Dec. 2 through Wednesday, as the president proposed a two-year freeze on federal civilian workers' pay and cut a deal with congressional Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts — even those for the wealthy, which he'd opposed.
Overall, just 42 percent of registered voters approve of how he's doing his job, while 50 percent disapprove.
Obama's standing among Democrats dropped from a month ago, with his approval rating falling to 74 percent from 83 percent, and his disapproval rating almost doubling, from 11 percent to 21 percent.
Among liberals, his approval rating dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent and his disapproval rating jumped from 14 percent to 22 percent.
His position among independents remained virtually the same, with 39 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving. A month ago, it was 38-54.
The president's continued failure to rally independents could ruin his bid for re-election. A hypothetical 2012 matchup showed him getting the support of 44 percent of registered voters and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, getting 46 percent.
This president does NOT have the same political skills or reputation Clinton had.
Obama can try and emulate the Clinton triangulation strategy of keeping liberals and traditional Dems in the fold while appealing to centrists and independents by moving more to the center.
But I doubt he can pull it off.
A) Many centrists and independents think he is "liberal" and he doesn't help himself when he makes these centrist sell-out moves like the Bush tax cut agreements while denigrating both the agreement and the people he made the agreement with.
B) Many liberals now see him as as corporate sell-out.
I know I have long been off the "Change We Can Believe In" Express, but many Dems and liberals who have long been apologizing for the previous Obama sell-outs - like TALF or Geithner/Summers or the failure to push for a public option in the HCR bill or the promoting a 40% excise tax to fund HCR over a millionaire's tax or the disastrous HAMP mortgage relief program - are really pissed off by this Bush tax cut extension agreement.
Maybe Obama is skilled enough to bring pissed off Dems and liberals back into the fold while attracting some independents to support him in 2012.
But I have yet to see the kind of political skills he would need to bring that off from him or anybody in his administration.
So maybe he'll get votes from the 42% who still approve of him, and maybe he'll get votes from David Broder and David Brooks and the rest of the Village Eliters.
But winning 42% overall in an election isn't gong to get him any prizes, not unless a third party candidate runs and takes a large enough number of votes from a Republican candidate to make that enough to win.