In a head-to-head matchup among all adults, Obama leads Trump by 12 points, 52-40 percent; Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota by an identical 12 points; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by 15 points each; and Palin by 17. Closer, as noted, are Huckabee, who trails Obama by 50-44 percent; and Romney, who comes within a scant 4 points, with 45 percent to Obama's 49.
Notably, both Romney and Huckabee move numerically ahead of Obama, by 49-44 percent and 48-45 percent, respectively, among independents, the quintessential swing voters in national elections. All other Republicans tested in this poll trail Obama among independents.
Romney outperforms other potential GOP candidates in higher-income brackets, leading Obama by 11 points among people in $100,000-plus households, a group in which Obama ran evenly against McCain in 2008.
Obama won independents by 52-44 percent in 2008; now, as noted, more favor Romney. Obama's support among whites is about the same now as in 2008 (he's losing them to Romney by 13 points), but he's somewhat down from his levels in some other groups, including young voters (60 percent, vs. 66 percent in 2008), liberals (84 percent, vs. 89 percent in 2008) and, notably, moderates (53 percent, vs. 60 percent in 2008).
Obama remains most imperiled, and Republicans best assisted, by the public's long-running -- and now heightened -- economic discontent. Forty-four percent say the economy's getting worse, the most since March 2009; these pessimists (disproportionately Republicans) favor any of the possible GOP candidates for president over Obama by double digits.
Beyond the economy overall, and despite declining unemployment, more say the availability of jobs in their area is getting worse (37 percent) than better (26 percent). And most striking is the weight of rising prices: Seventy-eight percent of Americans say inflation is getting worse in their area, and nearly as many, 71 percent, continue to say the rising price of gasoline is causing them financial hardship ("serious" hardship for more than four in 10).
As noted, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, matching the most of his career; 46 percent "strongly" disapprove, a new high and double the number of strong approvers. Overall disapproval of Obama's work on the economy has risen by 6 percentage points since January, shortly before improved economic views were hammered down by this year's steep, 74-cent run-up in gas prices.
Views that the economy is worsening have increased by 21 points this year, up particularly in the West, where gas prices are highest, as well as among men, independents and Republicans.
Approval and Favorability
Where the economy leads, presidential approval usually follows. For the first time since September, numerically more Americans now disapprove than approve of Obama's job performance, 50 percent vs. 47 percent; at 37 percent, the number who "strongly" disapprove is a point from the record, and exceeds strong approvers by 10 points.
Obama's job rating is down by 11 points this year in the West, and down by 14 points among higher-income Americans, who might have a case of tax jitters given the president's declaration that he won't renew upper-income tax breaks next year.