I find myself thinking, not for the first time, that none of the candidates currently running for President can possibly win election and that includes Barack Obama.
Why the GOP can't win.
It is difficult to say that the Republicans have ever looked weaker at this point in the election cycle. Mitt Romney just barely managed to win Michigan, a state in which he is a favorite son of sorts, while splitting the delegates with Rick Santorum. Mitt won big in Arizona, a state where he only needed to win as it is winner take all. There is some sense of elation in Mitt's camp today, but as A.B. Stoddard put it on Fox News, it is the elation that comes not with triumph but from a brush with death.
The outlook for the Republican process looks the same as it has for weeks. Romney is probably the only candidate who can win, but he faces a long slog before he can wrap it up. The possibility of a brokered convention is real. No one really knows what that would look like today, but most of those who yearn for a Republican victory are very afraid to find out.
What Republicans should fear, however, is not a failure to rally around Romney. It is that Romney will be the Republican John Kerry: a candidate whose only bankable asset, either among his party or among the voters at large, is that he is not the incumbent President.
Why Obama can't win.
Given the disarray in the Republican contest right now, you'd expect Obama to be well ahead in all the polls. The Battleground poll does show Obama with a ten point lead. Rasmussen gives Romney a one point lead. Both polls measure likely voters. Gallup is continuously polling and their numbers are rather astonishing.
Among registered voters, where Democrats do better than among likely voters, Romney is four points ahead of Obama. Santorum is only one point behind. That doesn't look good for an incumbent President, especially when all the focus is on the squabble between his potential opponents.
Gallup has been continuously tracking the President's approval rating. Obama has been running a negative approval rating since July of last year. While is it rather narrower than it was for several months, 50% of voters currently disapprove of his job performance versus an approval of 45%. Those are poor numbers for an incumbent seeking reelection.
That doesn't exactly spell doom. This is precisely the point in the cycle where Jimmy Carter and George Bush (41) saw their approval ratings collapse. It is, however, below George W. Bush (43), whose rating hovered around 50% all the way to reelection.
Rasmussen has been running a Presidential Approval Index since the beginning of Obama's presidency. This compares those who strongly approve of the President's performance in office against those who strongly disapprove. He is the chart, from Powerline:
That measurement, if accurate, compares the President's core support with his core opposition. It is reasonable to suppose that these are the people most likely to vote, contribute, and act on behalf of or against the President. A 16 point Obama deficit is very bad news.
My point in this post is not that Romney or Obama is likely to lose. One of them (assuming a Mitt nomination) will surely be sleeping in the White House next year. My point is that a year from now the Oval Office will almost certainly belong to a man with no large core of support among the voters. He will either be the not-Obama or the not-player to be named later.
It is possible of course that President Romney (or Santorum) will be able to build a consensus by decisive action on the nation's problems. I ain't betting on that, but it could happen. By contrast, four more years of Obama will be four more years of the same. Happy March!