Driven to irrational exuberance by good political news in the last 2 months, giddy Democrats need a cold shower, and yesterday's Des Moines Register poll is just that. It finds that Paul, Santorum, and Romney all lead President Obama in Iowa, with Paul up 49-42; Santorum 48-44; and Romney 48-46. The President only beats Speaker Gingrich, whipping him 51-37, confirming the enormous damage done by millions of dollars of negative adds, fired at Newt, in Iowa by Team Romney and Congressman Paul.
Ron Paul is the President's toughest Republican opponent, beating him by 7 points. Paul is the most electable in the general election but remains certain not to be the nominee. Yet, at least in Iowa, Santorum and Romney also narrowly lead the President in February 2012.
President Obama carried Iowa by 10 points in 2008, and Iowa's unemployment rate is substantially below the national average, as the Iowa farm economy has done comparatively well. But by 46 to 48, the poll found that Iowans disapproved of the President's job performance.
The poll confirms that the President remains vulnerable whenever his approval rating falls below 50%. The poll challenges the conventional wisdom that the Republican primaries have become necessarily bad for the Republicans' general election prospects. Most of the many months of the Iowa caucus featured all Republican candidates attacking the President, with negative attacks directed at Gingrich in only December 2011. Finally the poll is a reminder that the 2012 election could still be close, a cold shower for giddy Democrats.