According to political scientists, the dynamics of presidential contests are driven by an ungodly hybrid of two broad factors. Elections are primarily a referendum on the performance of the incumbent, but they can also represent a choice between the visions of two candidates.
Insofar as the 2012 campaign becomes a referendum, voters will ask certain retrospective questions. Has bargain-bin cat food satisfied an increasing share of Americans' nutritional needs? (Yes.) Have we spent most of the past few years working at productive jobs or watching internet porn and wallowing in self-pity? (The latter.)
Insofar as the election is a choice, voters think prospectively. Will Rick Perry's plan for Social Security reform involve working in the salt mines until death mercifully lifts us from Earth's veil? (Most signs point to yes.) Would Mitt Romney protect us from the coming robot rebellion or join with his silicon brethren in enslaving the human race? (You decide.)
On that note, the latest survey from Marist — by a narrow margin not America's least accurate pollster in the last election cycle — shows signs of both retrospective frustration and prospective despair…
By a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent, voters said they definitely plan to vote against Obama, according to the poll. Independents by 53 percent to 28 percent said they definitely plan to vote against him.
With that sentiment permeating the electorate a little more than a year before the general election, most Americans think Obama won't win a second term.
By 52 percent to 38 percent, voters think he'll lose to the Republican nominee, whoever that is. Even among Democrats, 31 percent think the Republican nominee will win…
The field lines up differently, though, when matched against Obama.
While most of the Republicans have gained on Obama, he still leads all of the announced candidates.
In short, voters are still keen on replacing Obama with a generic Republican, and even the very non-generic, non-candidate Sarah Palin trails Obama by only 5 percent in this poll. But once GOP contenders actually enter the race, most voters — while no doubt, gently weeping — tell pollsters they back the President.
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Tags: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Polls, Primaries, Republicans, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin