Poll: Obama Tops Leading GOP Challengers, Loses to Generic Opponent

President Obama trounces the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination in hypothetical 2012 matchups polled by Penn Schoen Berland — but against an unnamed generic Republican candidate, he comes up short.

In the survey, Obama beat out several prominent Republicans by at least six points, and by as much as 21. Mike Huckabee came closest, losing to Obama 40%-34%. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was next closest, losing to Obama by seven points, 40%-33%.

Sarah Palin, who has routinely performed poorly in head-to-head matchups with President Obama, garnered only 33% to Obama’s 48% in the poll. Only Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour polled worse than Palin. Pawlenty lost to Obama 39%-22%, while Barbour received 19% to Obama’s 40%.However, while Obama beat all of the named Republican challengers, he trailed when respondents were asked to choose between him and whoever winds up as the GOP nominee.

The poll asked:

If Barack Obama runs for reelection in 2012, in general, are you more likely to vote for President Obama or for the Republican Party’s candidate for president?

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would vote for the Republican nominee, versus 37% who said they would vote for Obama. That’s actually an improvement from last month, when a Penn Schoen Berland poll had him trailing a generic GOP challenger by three points, 40%-37%. Obama also trailed an unnamed Republican opponent by one point in the October poll from Penn Schoen Berland.

The findings are not too surprising given the favorability ratings of Obama’s likely challengers. Only Mike Huckabee had a net favorability rating in the poll, with 32% of respondents viewing him positively, compared to 30% who viewed him negatively. By contrast, 29% of respondents viewed Mitt Romney favorably, versus 33% who viewed him unfavorably. And while 36% of those polled had a positive opinion of Sarah Palin, an overwhelming 56% viewed her negatively.

That could leave room for a lesser-known candidate–such as Barbour or Pawlenty, each of whom about 70% of those polled had no opinion on–to gain prominence and give Obama a serious challenge in 2012.