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Obama on the Campaign Trail: Are Democrats Better Off With Bill Clinton?

3 years ago
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President Obama is not on the ballot this year, so the comparison of how good (or bad) his political coattails are compared to 2008 is kind of apples and oranges. But there is little question that his sagging popularity and approval rating is not helping most Democratic candidates (except possibly for raising money) and, in many cases, hurting them.

There's even evidence in a poll released Tuesday by Gallup that former President Bill Clinton is the better advocate for Democrats on the campaign trail than Obama, particularly among independents -- who just about every survey shows have markedly soured on Obama this year.

Gallup says, based on a survey conducted Oct. 14-17, that Clinton "has the potential to do more good for Democratic candidates on whose behalf he campaigns" than does Obama.

Barack Obama and Bill ClintonAmong registered Democrats, 53 percent say Clinton campaigning for a candidate makes it more likely that they would vote for that person, compared to 48 percent for Obama. Forty-four percent say Obama campaigning for a candidate would make no difference to their vote, compared to 39 percent who say that about Clinton.

But the bigger difference is with independents, among whom 21 percent say they would be swayed by Clinton, compared to 12 percent for Obama. Driving the point home further is the fact that 39 percent of independents say Obama campaigning for a candidate would make them less likely to support that person, compared to 23 percent who feel that way about Clinton.

Among Republicans, 9 percent say the Clinton embrace would make it more likely for them to support a candidate, compared to 2 percent for Obama. Seventy-one percent say Obama's support for a candidate would make it less likely for them to vote for him or her, compared to 46 percent who feel that way about Clinton.

Most individual state polls that ask whether getting Obama out on the stump helps Democrats show that a plurality or majority of voters say it makes no difference. But several of these polls make clear that Obama has been a real drag on the Democrats in some important races.

One example is Ohio, where a Quinnipiac poll conducted Oct. 12-17 shows first-term Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland stuck 10 points behind former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Fifty-six percent of Ohio voters overall disapprove of the job Obama and his numbers among independents are even worse. Quinnipiac's Peter Brown said, "President Barack Obama's 63 percent disapproval rating among independent voters is an extremely heavy anchor around Ted Strickland's neck."

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted Oct. 17-18 of the Senate race in Pennsylvania shows disapproval of Obama's performance at 51 percent among voters in general and 55 percent among independents. While the poll showed Democrat Joe Sestak catching up to Republican Pat Toomey after trailing in many other polls, PPP's Tom Jensen said, "If there is some bad news for Sestak in this poll it's that the remaining undecideds are not very happy with the president -- if they ended up voting in the Senate race based on their feelings about Obama, it would turn Toomey's 1-point deficit into a 1-point lead."

A CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll, conducted Oct. 7-14, of voters who supported Obama in 2008 finds that 67 percent say they will vote for the Democratic candidate in their House district, but 8 percent plan to defect to the Republican and 21 percent appear on the fence, saying it "depends." (Story; Poll Data.)

Independents backed Obama in a big way in 2008, but the poll says that this year just 42 percent of independents who supported him will support the Democratic candidate, while 12 percent will back a Republican (38 percent are still undecided).

Obama still gets an 82 percent job approval rating from those who voted for him, but when it comes to the feelings they have about Washington these days, only 4 percent describe themselves as enthusiastic and 37 percent say they are just satisfied. Forty-five percent are dissatisfied and 13 percent are angry. When it comes to Obama's 2008 mantra of "change," 51 percent of his presidential election supporters say he has brought some, 16 percent say "a lot," and 32 percent say not much or none.

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