PPP's first national poll of 2012 finds Barack Obama with his best standing against Mitt Romney since last May, right after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama leads Romney 49-44.
It's not as if Obama's suddenly become popular. He remains under water with 47% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. But Romney's even less popular, with only 35% rating him favorably while 53% have a negative opinion of him. Over the last month Romney's seen his negatives with independents rise from 46% to 54%, suggesting that the things he has to say and do to win the Republican nomination aren't necessarily helping him for the general. Obama's turned what was a 45-36 deficit with independents a month ago into a 51-41 advantage.
One thing that really stands out in this poll is the extent to which Obama has claimed the middle. He's up 68-27 on Romney with moderates. He also leads by 20 points with voters under 45, a group there's been some concern about slippage with, and he has a 66-30 advantage with Hispanics.
Stephen Colbert wants to run for President but he's not on the ballot in South Carolina. Americans Elect is on the ballot in a lot of states but doesn't have a candidate. Could Colbert and Americans Elect's interests intersect? We find Colbert getting 13% in a hypothetical third party run for President, compared to 41% for Obama and 38% for Romney. A Colbert bid could be a blessing in disguise for the GOP. His voters go for Obama over Romney 52-38 in a straight head to head, so his presence as a potential candidate works to the Republicans' advantage.
36% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 28% with a negative one. His 36% favorability is better than the entire GOP field. Romney's at 35%, Santorum at 30%, Paul at 27%, Gingrich at 26%, and Perry at 21%. Colbert's popular with Democrats (47/21) and independents (43/26) but not with Republicans (18/39) despite his best efforts to run as one of their Presidential candidates.
In a more plausible third party scenario Gary Johnson gets 7% as the Libertarian candidate to 47% for Obama and 40% for Romney. His voters go 33-27 for Romney in a head to head so his bid is of slight benefit to Obama.
Full results here