Donald Lambro

The best thing Democrats have going for them in this 2012 election cycle is the deep division among Republicans over who should be their presidential nominee.

Less than 60 days before the Iowa caucuses, the GOP is no closer to coalescing around a front-runner to take on President Obama than it was a year ago. A party that can't agree on who stands the best chance of winning back the White House, looks weak, indecisive and rife with internal ideological divisions that can deplete its energy, turnout and fundraising.

Despite Obama's overwhelming failure to deal with a weak, jobless economy and unprecedented deficits and debt, recent poll numbers show he may give the GOP a much tougher fight than most party leaders are willing to acknowledge right now.

The Gallup Poll reported Thursday that he is essentially tied with a generic Republican candidate when registered voters are asked whom "they are more likely to vote for in the presidential election next year."

Gallup said that voters were split down the middle, with 42 percent choosing Obama and 43 percent for the Republican candidate.

"This marks a change from October and September, when the Republican candidate was ahead, and underscores the potential for a close presidential race in the year ahead," Gallup said.

Throughout much of this year, Obama's support has been leaking like a sieve, with his job approval polls falling into the low 40s and the high 30s, according to Gallup's daily tracking polls. Lately, though, his numbers have been edging up a few digits to as high as 44 percent, while his disapproval score has dropped from 50 percent to less than 48 percent this week.

The economy remains weak. Unemployment is still at 9 percent (16 percent if Americans forced to take part-time work or have stopped looking for jobs are included). The budget deficit is still unprecedented at around $1.3 trillion or more. And forecasters say these numbers are not going to change significantly this year or next.

It's not entirely clear what is affecting the poll numbers beyond the Democrats' base rallying around Obama as the election year draws near. It may also be the result of the president shifting into an aggressive campaign mode, firing away at the Republicans with both guns blazing, that has excited his base and rekindled their support.

But the bitter Republican primary battle, fought out over an interminable number of televised debates, with no clear leading candidate in sight, may be raising the Democrats' hopes.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.