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The BMW vs. the Buick

From NBC's Mark Murray
In the last few days, Republican aides have pounced on the results from three new national polls (NBC/WSJ, CBS/NYT, ABC/WashPo). President Obama's approval rating is down, they cheer. The public is worried about the deficit and the administration's spending, they add. It disapproves of the decision to shut down Guantanamo Bay. And it's not as optimistic about the stimulus.

All observations are true. But buried inside all three polls is this finding: Opinions about the Republican Party are at an all-time low. What's more, according to the ABC/WashPo survey, Americans trust Obama more than congressional Republicans on health care (55%-27%), the economy (55%-31%), the deficit (56%-30%), and combating terrorism (55%-34%).

To put it simply, the GOP's take on Obama's poll numbers is a lot like the owner of a 1987 Buick

pointing out the dents and potential engine trouble of a 2008 BMW sedan.

No doubt that Obama remains the dominant focus in American politics. No doubt that the president's numbers are down. And no doubt that Obama has entered a more challenging phase of his presidency (as he tackles health care, energy, and the stagnant economy).

Video: With the Republican Party still finding its footing in the current political landscape, is it now the time for a third party to triumph? A political panel debates.

But now more than five months since George W. Bush left office, the Republican Party finds itself confronting a more immediate problem with the American public than Obama or the Democratic Party currently faces.

Of course, the political climate can change in the blink of an eye (think of Bush before and after Hurricane Katrina), and Republicans are hoping that Obama's BMW breaks down.

But smart Republicans are asking themselves this question: Does their 80s-era Buick need a fixing first?