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20% of Republicans leaning to Obama!

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of “WND/WENZEL POLLS” conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.

WASHINGTON – For critics of Barack Obama, 2012 has been portrayed as a do-or-die year for the country – an election that will determine whether America stays on the road to European-style socialism or veers right to reclaim its positions as the most vibrant economy in the world and the home of individual liberty.

But the 2012 election is looking more like a replay of 2008 than a do-over.

The latest WND/Wenzel Poll shows none of the current crop of Republican presidential candidates has solidified the base of the party, with one in five GOP voters leaning toward support of Obama in November.

The results are from the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies. The poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 1-3, 2012, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.44 percentage points.

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“The improvement in Obama’s prospects compared to the four remaining Republican challengers stems largely from two factors,” suggests pollster Fritz Wenzel. “First, Obama has largely avoided the political limelight while the GOP candidates savage each other with increasing intensity. Second, a smattering of evidence indicates that the economy is getting a little better, which helps the White House in the eyes of the voters. Secondly, the bloody fight for the Republican presidential nomination – by most estimations the nastiest GOP fight in memory – has really hurt the images of the challengers in the eyes of both Republicans and, especially, independent voters. For Republicans, each candidate carries with them now some taint that cannot be ignored.”

In every case except the match-up against Ron Paul, more than 20 percent of Republican voters said they are more likely to support Obama than the Republican challenger. And Ron Paul is close, as 19 percent of Republicans said they are more likely to support Obama than Paul.

Making the situation more bleak for opponents of Obama, independent voters are apparently quite put off with the Republican nomination fight. While polls last fall showed them leaning Republican by roughly a two-to-one margin, they are now either split evenly or favoring Obama.

“What must be particularly alarming to every Republican campaign regarding this nasty fight is that, even among those who say they think the nation is heading in the wrong direction, Obama still wins at least 20 percent support in head-to-head match-ups against the four remaining Republicans, and among those who said they were unsure about the overall direction of the nation, Obama wins by overwhelming percentages,” observes Wenzel.

Obama also has made tremendous inroads on enemy territory against each of the four Republicans, winning roughly 20 percent support among conservatives and even those who consider themselves to be very conservative. And, even against Mitt Romney, considered by many to be the most moderate of the GOP bunch, Obama defeats him by a large margin among moderate voters.

“Obama has masterfully positioned himself to lower expectations among the electorate in terms of economic progress, and has sat idly by while Republicans – mostly Romney and Newt Gingrich – destroy each other’s reputations,” said Wenzel. “While the Obama-Clinton nomination battle lasted well into the spring four years ago, it never got as nasty as this year’s fight between Romney and Gingrich, which now appears to be very personal in nature. Obama was able to recover nicely by the time the general election campaign rolled around. If either Romney or Gingrich wins the nomination – and that is a long way from being determined – it is doubtful either will recover to full strength by the fall campaign. This poll indicates that it is more the negativity of the Republican nomination fight and less the small improvement in the economy that has changed the national political landscape.”

Barack Obama

It does help Obama that the recent upbeat economic news appears to have buoyed spirit nationwide. One third of respondents – 34 percent — said Obama has exceeded expectations during his first term in office, while another 20 percent said he has performed as expected. Less than half – 47 percent – said he has fallen short of their expectations for him as president.

Among independents, 60 percent said Obama has either met or exceeded expectations. Among political moderates, 52 percent said the same thing.

Obama would defeat all of the four Republicans if the election were held today, but Ron Paul fares the best against the incumbent. Obama leads Paul, 44 percent to 40 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

“This is likely a reflection of discontent over Obama’s handling of the economy and, in particular, his outsized appetite for deficit spending,” observed Wenzel. “Paul has far and away offered the clearest and most serious plan to cut federal spending, and it appears to be recognized by these survey respondents.”

Romney also is within single digits of Obama, currently trailing, 48 percent to 41 percent. Obama leads both Gingrich and Rick Santorum Santorum by double-digits. Obama leads Gingrich, 50 percent to 36 percent, and Santorum, 49 percent to 34 percent.

Nearly one-quarter of Republicans abandon both Gingrich and Santorum, and Obama leads both men by big margins among independent voters.

See detailed results of survey questions:

Compared to how you expected him to perform as president back when he first was elected, would you say that he has exceeded your expectations or not?

If the election was today, and the candidates were Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Newt Gingrich, for whom would you vote?

If the election was today, and the candidates were Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, for whom would you vote?

If the election was today, and the candidates were Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Ron Paul, for whom would you vote?

If the election was today, and the candidates were Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Rick Santorum, for whom would you vote?

If the election for president was today, would you vote for Democrat Barack Obama, would you consider voting for someone new, or would you definitely vote for someone new?