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The Mystery Of The Close Presidential Race

The most interesting question about the presidential election is whether President Obama can continue to defy political gravity. The abysmal state of the economy would, in ordinary conditions, mean almost certain defeat for an incumbent president. But two factors are, at least for now, keeping Obama competitive. First, Obama's popularity is holding up better than conditions would normally indicate. Second, the Republican Party remains incredibly unpopular.

PPP's national poll shows that Mitt Romney would fare better against Obama than would Rick Perry, who is already radioactive to moderates. But even Romney is not terribly popular, sporting a 35% favorable rating (48% unfavorable), well behind Obama's low-fifties rating. I suspect this poll underrates Romney's general election strength a bit. Much of his unfavorability seems to come from Republicans, who I suspect are unhappy with Romney's deviations but would come around if he faced off against Obama.

Still, it's striking that the public views all the Republican candidates much less favorably than Obama. Will that hold up in November 2012?