We are a bit less than 18 months out from the 2012 presidential election, and the GOP field has no front-runner. A few of the GOP’s announced contenders or possible candidates have national name recognition (Romney, Gingrich, Trump, Huckabee, Palin, Paul), but others (Pawlenty, Daniels, Cain, Bachmann, Santorum) do not. As a result, the best indicator of how the president is doing in his re-election bid is to look at his approval ratings and how he fares against a generic (unnamed) Republican opponent.
The Obama campaign, aiming to raise a billion dollars or more, has gotten off to a fast start, with a national fundraising swing to attract contributions from wealthy Democrats in New York, California, Illinois, and Texas, among other states.
Then on May 1 came the announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
A barrage of instant polls conducted on one day or over two days seemed to show the president got a big boost in his approval rating (Quinnipiac, CBS/New York Times, Washington Post/SRBI), moving from the high 40s to levels in the 50s. Then came an Associated Press-GfKpoll that showed the president at 60% approval, a level not reached since early in his term in 2009. The Associated Press poll was criticized for oversampling Democrats (46% versus 29% for Republicans).
Meanwhile, the two polling groups which conduct surveys every day (or almost every day) — Rasmussen and Gallup — showed more modest gains for the president. Both of these surveys revealed the president’s approval ratings rising even before the announcement of bin Laden’s death. This was likely due to the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, which seemed to take the air out of that issue and the Trump campaign.
Barack Obama’s election victory in 2008 was one that made many Americans feel good about their country and the racial progress that has been achieved. Americans bought into the hope and change monikers of the Obama campaign. But the second time around, the president will be judged by his record, not the promise of what is to come. Tyrone Willingham, the former Notre Dame football coach, and Frank Robinson, the Hall of Famer who was the first black manager in baseball can tell the president that it is great to be a door opener (or ceiling smasher), but then you need to show results to keep your job.