Authors: Jeanette Torres
(NEW YORK) -- Americans broadly expect Barack Obama to be a one-term president, even as the Republican contest to challenge him churns wildly.
Rick Perry, slammed by poor debate performances after a soaring start, has lost ground badly -- hemorrhaging support from older Americans and very conservative Republicans, and relinquishing the overall advantage in his party’s contest to Mitt Romney. Instead, it’s Herman Cain’s turn to surge: He’s suddenly running evenly with Perry in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, when added to the mix, debuts with 11 percent support in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. While that means nine in 10 don’t side with the Garden State governor, 42 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents also said they’d like him to run -- more than say that about the other major figure still in the wings, Sarah Palin.
These results signal the unsettled nature of the Republican contest. Among announced candidates, Romney has 25 percent support, unchanged from last month; Perry has 16 percent, down by a steep 13 points; Cain, with 16 percent, is up sharply from 4 percent a month ago.
Best for Cain and Christie alike is the way in which potential Republican voters are warming to them. Forty-seven percent say the more they hear about Cain the more they like him versus 18 percent who like him less. It’s a similar 43 to 23 percent positive for Christie.
Perry is heading in the opposite direction, with more negative reviews than positive ones. Forty-four percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning-independents now say the more they hear about Perry, the less they like him, outnumbering the 30 percent who like him more.
Romney gets an even split on this score -- like his overall support numbers, he appears to be neither gaining ground nor losing it, which for a frontrunner could be worse.
Obama, for his part, presiding over the longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, is down to 42 percent approval for his job performance -- numerically a new low, and not the kind of number that lends itself to re-election.
Fifty-four percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s performance. That includes 40 percent who disapprove strongly, outnumbering strong approvers by 2 to 1.
While the intensity of his critics is trouble for Obama, so are expectations that he won’t be re-elected; Americans by 55-37 percent expect the eventual Republican nominee to win. Such views can inform voter enthusiasm -- precisely the ingredient that led the GOP to its broad success in the 2010 midterms.
General-election matchups remain quite close, with support for Obama’s challengers below his disapproval rating, indicating that discontent with the president hasn’t yet coalesced into full-throated support for the other side.
Obama has 47 percent support versus 46 percent against Romney; this flips to 46 to 48 among registered voters. It’s 46 to 44 percent among all adults for Obama-Christie and 49 to 44 percent pitting Obama against Perry. The differences are not statistically significant.
By another measure, 46 percent of Americans said they definitely would not support Obama for re-election -- about where it’s been since spring -- leaving him fairly little margin for error in his 2012 campaign. Notably, though, nearly as many -- 44 percent -- flatly rule out Perry; fewer, 37 percent, reject Romney out of hand.
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