WASHINGTON -- If you are looking for signs of President Barack Obama's vulnerability, there are plenty to be found in the latest CNN poll. But one number stands out: If that hypothetical election were held tomorrow, Obama would beat Ron Paul -- yeah, that Ron Paul -- by just four points.
While it may be a sign that some voters are adopting an anybody-but-Obama attitude, that same poll shows Obama handily stomping candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
And, truth be told, Obama still tops everyone in the GOP field with the exception of Mitt Romney, who runs even with the president. Obama would beat Rick Perry by five points, the poll said.
The CNN poll also showed that Perry's poor debate performance Thursday has not seemed to have seriously jeopardized his status as the Republican front-runner. He holds a seven-point edge over Romney at 28 percent. (If Palin doesn't run, Perry's support jumps two more points.)
And while the survey showed Paul to be competitive with Obama in a head-to-head matchup, the libertarian-leaning Texan still didn't crack double digits in the Republican primary. (He's actually down six points from the last CNN poll.)
Neither could the conservative flavor of the moment, Herman Cain. The only second-tier contender who did? Newt Gingrich.
More evidence, too, that Bachmann's campaign is suffering a rapid decline, the kind that makes oxygen masks fall out of the ceiling: The Minnesota congresswoman grades out at just 4 percent, close to the margin of error, or what might be called Huntsmanville.
Yes, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman continues to struggle in national polls. CNN has him with just 1 percent of the vote. It remains clear that while Huntsman's candidacy remains well regarded in establishment circles, the Republican base just isn't buying what he's selling. His failure to launch has led to some speculation that he will fail to qualify for the GOP debate next month in Las Vegas.
As for the president, the poll has his approval rating hanging around 45 percent. And while CNN points out that he remains personally likable and popular, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying he has the "personality and leadership" qualities a president should have, that number is actually an all-time low for Obama in the CNN poll. (It was as high as 65 percent as recently as May 2010.)
And that mark comes despite more Americans agreeing with him on the issues than a year ago. In other words, Americans are agreeing with him more often, but liking him less. Since the poll shows that voters tend to support candidates based more on how they "feel" about them and less on whether they line up on the issues, that's a worrisome trend for Obama.
Bachmann and Palin, by the way, do terribly in the "personality and leadership" category.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from Sept. 23-25, with 1,010 adult Americans, including 447 Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
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