PPP Poll: Obama Widens Lead On 2012 GOP Contenders

President Obama’s approval rating improved over the last few weeks, and now so too has his standing in hypothetical 2012 matchups with the leading GOP candidates, according to a new PPP poll.

In the poll, Obama increased his lead over several front runners for the Republican presidential nomination since PPP last polled the head-to-head matchups two months ago. He also easily topped a bonus candidate included in the survey, Michele Bachmann, who is reportedly considering a White House bid.Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee fared best against Obama, each trailing by five points. Againt Romney, Obama led 48% to 43%, while the President topped Huckabee 49% to 44%. Two months ago, those races were closer, with Romney trailing Obama by just one point, 47% to 46%, and Hucakbee down three points, 48% to 45%.

Newt Gingrich held Obama just below the critical 50% threshold in November, trailing 49% to 43%, though that gap widened to 51% to 39% in the latest poll. Sarah Palin fell even further behind in the latest poll, as Obama’s previous 51% to 42% margin ballooned to 55% to 38% now.

Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann brought up the rear, trailing Obama 55% to 31%.

None of the Republicans tested in the poll posted a net favorable rating, with the splits ranging from Huckabee’s minus one, to Palin’s minus 23.

However, despite those low favorability ratings, most Republicans are happy with the current crop of front runners. Forty-seven percent of Republican respondents said they thought the party’s best bet was to nominate one of their big name contenders, while 37% said the GOP would be better off nominating with a fresh face.

The PPP poll was conducted January 14-16 among 632 voters nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.9%.