Though he is seen better now than when we last polled the state before last fall’s Tea-Party-enthused election, President Obama is still very unpopular in Kentucky. Despite that, if the 2012 election were held today, he would defeat two of his potential opponents and take the state’s eight electoral votes for his party for the first time since Bill Clinton’s near-landslide re-election in 1996.
39% of voters approve and 56% disapprove of the president’s job performance, up from a 31-62 margin late last October. That still makes it his seventh or eighth worst standing in any of the 45 states we've measured him in. 32% of the state’s conservative Democrats disapprove, to two-thirds approving; they make up 55% of voters. Republicans almost unanimously disapprove, and independents fall at 31-66.
None of the Republicans is seen very well either. Fresh-faced Rick Perry is best off, with a 35-41 favorability rating, followed by Mitt Romney’s 30-47, Michele Bachmann’s 30-50, Sarah Palin’s 33-58, and Newt Gingrich’s 22-63. As such, the president trails Perry only 49-42; Romney, 48-40; and Bachmann, 46-43. He actually leads Gingrich, 47-44, and Palin, 48-44. 19% to 24% of Democrats defect to the Republicans, and they lead the president by 10 (Palin) to 25 points (Romney) with independents.
Poll respondents—likely voters in this fall’s gubernatorial election—report having voted for McCain over Obama by only four points, when he actually won by 16. In that sense, Romney and Perry actually improve on McCain’s victory margin, despite their raw single-digit leads. But Obama would outperform his 2008 pace in the state against the others, something we're finding in nearly every state. This is the first state since we started polling Perry in the general election matchups a few weeks ago in which he has almost matched Romney's standing against the president. He did two points worse in Ohio and three points worse in Iowa, but seven points worse in South Carolina.
In the end, Obama won't win Kentucky--not even close. Republican voters don't seem too jazzed up by David Williams, so Democrats might have a good year this fall. But conservatives will be back out in force next year, and Kentucky won't be near the top of any candidate's travel itinerary.
Full results here.