U.S. registered voters are evenly split about whether they would back President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012 (45%) or “the Republican Party’s candidate” (45%). This is similar to the results for the same question when it was asked a year ago.
Results from a parallel question Gallup asked during the presidencies of George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush show both of those presidents performing better on this re-elect measure at comparable points in their third years in office than Obama does today.
It’s a political maxim that in elections with a sitting president running for re-election, voters are not so much choosing between two candidates as voting for or against the incumbent. That is not to say it won’t matter whom the Republicans choose as their standard-bearer, but perhaps it matters slightly less than it would in an open election.