Another headline from our NBC/WSJ poll: The House GOP honeymoon is more than over… Obama’s approval and percentage against Romney is at 50% or higher in every region but the South… What should concern Team Obama: The undecideds on the generic ballot aren’t happy people… Romney opens up big lead in GOP horserace, but you can also see how Romney is potentially vulnerable to a Tea Party challenge… Pawlenty hasn’t caught fire yet, but aides insist the race is a marathon… Obama’s approval on Libya takes a hit… Republican Leadership Conference (in New Orleans) and Netroots Nation (in Minneapolis) both begin today… And Romney’s in Florida and Georgia, while Santorum’s in New Hampshire.
*** The GOP honeymoon is over: By now, you've probably seen the headlines from the new NBC/WSJ poll: just 45% of GOP primary voters are satisfied with their presidential field, Obama is up six points on Romney, and the economy remains potentially perilous for the incumbent president. But another important story in our poll is how the Republican Party’s honeymoon after taking control of Congress in January is more than over. Consider: Congress’ approval rating is a dismal 18%, down four points from last month; it's not been this low since March 2010 (health- care month) The GOP’s fav/unfav is 30%-44%, compared with the Democratic Party’s 38%-39% score. What’s more, only 10% of respondents have a “great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence in Congress, and majorities of ALL respondents (including Republicans) believe the House GOP has not brought much change. And the number thinking the GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare is a bad idea has increased nine points since April to 31%; just 22% believe it’s a good idea. The one piece of non-bad news for Republicans in the poll: They’re tied on the congressional ballot with Democrats.
*** Obama is at 50% or higher in every region except the South: As mentioned above, Obama leads Romney by six points (49%-43%) in a hypothetical general-election match up, despite all the grim economic numbers in the poll. But when you look at the Obama-vs.-Romney split by region, you see Obama’s lead over Romney is even stronger when thinking about the Electoral College. Obama is at 50% or higher against Romney in the Northeast (54%-36%), Midwest (50%-41%), and West (55%-40%). The one place that’s bolstering Romney’s numbers is in the South, where the Republican leads by a 49%-43% margin. Similarly, Obama’s overall job-approval is above 50% everywhere outside the South.
*** What should concern Obama: On the other hand, here’s what should concern Team Obama: On a generic presidential ballot, 45% say they would probably vote to re-elect the president, while 40% say they’d probably vote for the Republican candidate. But among the 13% who said it depends or are unsure, just 31% approve of Obama’s job, 76% think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and 80% believe the economy will get worse or stay the same over the next 12 months. Getting those last 5.1 percentage points is going to be one tough slog. Think about it: $1 billion will be spent to woo about five to six million Americans.
*** Romney vs. the rest: Turning to the GOP horserace, Romney has opened up a sizable lead. In a 10-candidate trial heat, he gets 30%, while the next-highest Republican (Palin) gets 14%. And in a smaller six-candidate field, Romney’s percentage increases to 43%, while the next highest (Paul and Bachmann) are at 11%. But you can also see how Romney is potentially vulnerable to a Tea Party candidate. In the 10-candidate trial heat, the percentage that Palin, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry receive is a combined 34%, which is higher than Romney’s 30%. So the dynamic to watch over the next several months is whether more conservative Republicans coalesce around a single Romney challenger (Bachmann, Perry, someone else), or if this vote gets divided up.
*** Pawlenty still hasn’t caught fire: And what about Pawlenty, the Republican everyone originally thought would be the main alternative to Romney? According to the poll -- which was conducted mostly before Monday’s tough debate for the former Minnesota governor -- Pawlenty has seen his name ID increase from April to June, MSNBC.com’s Carrie Dann has noted. But he registers at just 4% in the 10-candidate GOP trial heat, behind even Paul (at 7%) and Gingrich (at 6%) and behind a NON-candidate: Rick Perry (8%). Of course, Pawlenty still has plenty of time. And a strong showing at the Ames Straw Poll and then in the Iowa caucuses could catapult him back into that main alternative position. But T-Paw hasn’t caught fire yet. By the way, the New York Times reports today that Pawlenty’s camp believes everyone will forget T-Paw’s debate performance on Monday. “We take the long view, which is the right view,” spokesman Alex Conant told the paper. “Presidential campaigns are marathons. They are not won or lost in a night or a week or a month.” Speaking of Iowa, Pawlenty is out with a new direct mail piece aimed at Iowa Republicans. The No. 1 item he highlights from his governorship: conservative judges.
*** Obama’s approval on Libya takes a hit: A final observation from the poll: President Obama isn’t only having trouble with Congress when it comes to the limited U.S. intervention in Libya. Per the poll, 46% approve of the president’s handling of the situation there, which is down eight points from April. By comparison, 36% disapprove. But a majority (51%) believes the U.S. should stay involved in Libya until Khaddafy is ousted.
*** Republican Leadership Conference and Netroots Nation begin today: The three-day Republican Leadership Conference cattle call begins today in New Orleans. Speaking today: Gary Johnson (at 4:10 pm ET) and Gingrich (7:25 pm ET). Speaking tomorrow: Huntsman, Cain, Paul, Bachmann, and Santorum. And on Saturday: Rick Perry. The straw poll results also come out on Saturday. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the liberal Netroots Nation begins.
*** On the 2012 trail: Elsewhere, Romney stumps in Tampa, FL and then raises money in Atlanta, GA… And Santorum is in New Hampshire.
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 58 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 89 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 145 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 235 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up