Obama leads Romney and Santorum in November showdowns

President Barack Obamaholds a double-digit lead over GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in hypothetical general election matchups, according to a new poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday also indicates that the president’s approval rating has inched over the 50% mark in CNN surveys for the first time since last May, when the polls were still registering the after effects of the death of Osama bin Laden. The number of Americans who say the economy’s in good shape has jumped 13 points since January, though the survey shows a majority still think it is in poor shape. – Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

If the general election were held today instead of in early November, 54% of registered voters say they would back Obama, with 43% supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the GOP nomination battle. That’s up from a five-point 51%-46% advantage the president held over Romney in February.

And Obama would have a 55%-42% lead over Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who’s Romney’s main rival right now for the nomination. The president led Santorum by a seven-point 52%-45% margin last month.

“President Obama currently wins majority support among groups that have been problematic for him in the past, including men, older voters, and suburbanites,” says CNN Poling Director Keating Holland.  “He has a solid lead among independents as well.”

Remember that the election is not being held today, so the survey is not a prediction of what will happen in the general election.

The poll indicates that Obama is also the only presidential candidate with a personal popularity rating over 50%, with 56% of the public having a favorable view of Obama as a person and 42% seeing him in an unfavorable light. By contrast, nearly half questioned have an unfavorable view of Romney, compared to only 37% with a favorable view. Romney’s unfavorable rating is up six points from 43%, where it stood in CNN polling in January.

“Only 35 percent of independents now have a favorable view of Romney,” Holland notes.

According to the poll, Santorum’ unfavorables outweigh his favorable rating by a 42%-35% margin, and negative views of Santorum have grown every time CNN has measured the favorable rating in polls since last spring.

“The favorable ratings also reveal an institutional advantage for Obama. Forty-eight percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Democratic party, while the Republican party’s favorable rating has dropped to just 35%, with nearly six in ten Americans saying they have an unfavorable view of the GOP,” says Holland. “To put the Democrat’s 48% favorable rating in historical context, the last time the GOP’s rating reached 48% was in 2008.”

That indicates that the party may still be suffering from a “Bush hangover,” and the results of a question on the economy tend to bear that out. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed say that the economic conditions in the country are good – the highest level in more than four years. But nearly seven in ten say the economic conditions right now are poor.

Although Obama has been president for more than three years, 56% of Americans continue to blame former President George W. Bush and the Republicans for the country’s current economic problems, with only 29% blaming Obama and the Democrats.

All that may be contributing to a rise in the president’s approval rating, with 51% giving him a thumbs-up for his job performance and 45% disapproving how his handling his duties. Obama’s approval rating has edged up four points since January, when it stood at 47%.

The enthusiasm gap, which greatly benefited Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections, is a non-factor right now. Sixty-four percent of Republicans said in our October poll that they were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in the 2012 elections. That number dropped to 51% in February and is now at 52%. Only 43% of Democrats in October said they were extremely or very interested in voting in the general election. That now number now stands at 46%.

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