Here's how much political trouble President Obama is in: A new poll by the authoritative Evolving Strategies firm finds that Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney would all beat Obama it the election were held today.
Worse for Obama: the poll, which showed some 1,000 Americans videos of both Obama and the candidates speaking on the economy, backed up recent analysis that the president has lost his mojo when it comes to tackling the deepening recession and blaming Republicans for standing in his way.
Evolving Strategies put the video spin on their poll because most of the Republican presidential candidates still aren't known outside of Washington, the early primary and caucus states and to political junkies. Their idea was to show respondents a video clip and have them read a short 120-word biography.
As a result, the respondents felt they had more information and familiarity with the candidates and felt better making a judgment on a head-to-head contest question. Ironically, Obama still beat a "generic" Republican, but not the three front runners. Unfortunately for Obama, since the GOP primary race is now known, there is no more generic candidate to wish for.
Here are their results:
- Despite several bad debate performances by Perry in September, when respondents watched a clip of the Texas governor, he actually gained more support than any of the other candidates and beat Obama by 6-points, 42-36.
- Now Romney had a slightly higher margin—he beat Obama by 7-points 40-33, but he did it with less support. He got less support than Perry, but so did Obama, and there were more people who were uncertain about him, which doesn't come as a surprise—there's clearly been a lot of dissatisfaction with Romney as the establishment candidate.
- Finally, the candidate we're all most interested in—Herman Cain. The question is can he win the Republican primary? And can he win the general election? Well, he can certainly win the Republican primary. Across all treatments, when asked to choose among the eight GOP candidates, Cain won handily with 28 percent of the vote, followed by Romney at 19 percent and Perry at 12 percent.
- When it comes to a general election, Cain barely edged out Obama 35-34, but he moved from 5 points down in the control group with the generic Republican to 1 point up. And this jump came entirely out of Obama's vote. It's clear a lot of uncertainty remains in the general population about Cain—for starters he doesn't "look like" the stereotypical GOP candidate. And he certainly doesn't have the typical political background. But despite all that, people seem willing to give him a look – and when they get a look at him, he's running even with Obama. What will be interesting to see is whether all those uncertain votes become more certain about Herman Cain when they get to see more of him.
Bottom Line: Herman Cain can win the general—people have an open mind about him—but he needs to close the sale with those uncertain swing voters.