New Poll on Libya Offers Warning Sign to President Obama

BY Quinn Bowman  April 21, 2011 at 8:35 AM EST

President Obama; photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama speaks at a Democratic fund-raiser in San Francisco Wednesday. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

It was just a little more than three weeks ago that President Obama delivered his nationally televised address explaining to the country why he ordered military action in Libya and why the United States would then move into a background and support role.

The Washington chatter was consumed by all things Libya and President Obama opening up a third war front in a Muslim nation.

As Moammar Gadhafi remains in power and a stalemate continues between the rebel forces and Gadhafi’s military, President Obama has turned his focus domestically by working to avert a government shutdown, laying out his vision for how to rein in the debt and deficits facing the country and launching his re-election campaign.

The test now for President Obama will be whether or not he can withstand a drumbeat of pressure from NATO allies to step up U.S. involvement in Libya.

The latest poll numbers on the issue, courtesy of the Washington Post and ABC News, suggest a political reality that Libya is a loser issue for the president and that he would be wise to continue on his path to focus elsewhere and not become mired in the conflict.

In the last month, disapproval of the president’s handling of Libya shot up 15 points from 34 percent to 49 percent. While 56 percent of Americans support military involvement, only 42 percent approve of President Obama’s handling of the situation.

More From ABC News’ polling analyst Gary Langer:

“In effect, the poll divides Americans into three groups:

“Forty percent of Americans oppose U.S. military participation; in this group, just 27 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the situation, while 65 percent disapprove.

“An additional 32 percent support U.S. involvement, but say the aim should be to remove Gadhafi from power, not only to protect civilians. Obama gets a higher approval rating for handling Libya in this group, but hardly a robust one — 49 percent.

“The third and smallest group, 22 percent, supports the current policy – military involvement limited to protecting civilians. In this group Obama’s approval rating for handling the situation grows to 61 percent.”

Public opinion is clearly not set in stone, and Wednesday’s deaths of two journalists in Libya reminds how quickly the story can flare up again and require Preisdent Obama’s public attention.

But for now, it appears the president and his team are happy to keep this issue, publicly, on the back burner.

PALMETTO POWER

You can count South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley among the Republican voters who tell pollsters they aren’t thrilled with their choices for 2012.

“I’ll tell you, right now, no one in the field excites me right now,” Gov. Haley told Jim Davenport of the Associated Press Wednesday.

Her statement squares with the results of this week’s Post-ABC poll that found Republican-leaning respondents evenly split about the potential field, with 43 percent satisfied with their choice of candidates, 40 percent dissatisfied and 17 percent having no opinion.

Gov. Haley, who took office in January, also had some advice on how to win her state’s first-in-the-South primary next year.

“I tell them get to every corner of the state. Don’t just go to GOP clubs. Go to everybody because that was the key to my success,” she said. “And if you are going to come in with your typical consultant and do your normal presidential campaigning, you’re not going to win.”

The governor also gave her read on what South Carolina Republicans want in a candidate.

“I think it has to be someone that is not going to talk about the wrongs of President Obama. They have to talk about what they’re going to do to make things right,” she said.

Gov. Haley is seen as a rising star in the Republican party, and her endorsement will be a much sought-after prize, especially given the recent significance of the Palmetto State. Since 1980, when South Carolina moved near the front of the nominating calendar, the winner of the state’s GOP primary has never failed to claim the party’s nomination.

THE MONEY CHASE

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee edged out its Republican counterpart in March fund-raising totals with a cash haul of $5.6 million compared to the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s $5 million.

But the DSCC would probably trade in their mini cash victory for a more even playing field if it could.

Democrats are defending 23 seats this cycle compared to just 10 seats the Republicans are seeking to hold. Much of the battle for control of the Senate will be played on Democratic turf over the course of the next 18 months.

For the first quarter of the year, the DSCC raised $11.69 million and ended the quarter with $5.5 million cash on hand. The committee still holds $4.89 million in debt.

“The strong support we’re seeing so early in the cycle shows that we’re going to be in a position to not only protect our majority next year, but also play offense in 2012,” said DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil.

The NRSC raised $11.2 million for the quarter and ended March with $1.48 million in cash on hand. The committee holds $2.75 million in debt.

“Since Senator Cornyn assumed the chairmanship in 2009, his finance goals for the NRSC have been three-fold — to be careful stewards of our donors’ money, to continue to close the fundraising gap with Senate Democrats and to ensure that not a single Republican candidate loses on Election Day because of a lack of financial resources,” NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer said in a statement.

“The NRSC met, and exceeded, those goals last cycle, and while we’re still up against a Senate Democrat majority and the Fundraiser-In-Chief in the White House, we are committed to building on that success and winning back the majority next year,” he added.

OBAMAS ‘A GO’ FOR SHUTTLE LAUNCH

President Obama, the first lady and their two children will attend the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour next Friday, April 29, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The mission will be led by Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who is at a hospital in Houston recovering from a gunshot wound to the head suffered in an attack outside a Tucson grocery store in early January.

Whether Rep. Giffords will be present for the launch is still unknown, but the Arizona Republic reports that an aide to the congresswoman said she had a one word response after hearing that the president and his family would be there: “Awesome.”

Alex Leary of the St. Petersburg Times reports the president was already scheduled to be in the Sunshine State to deliver a commencement address at Miami-Dade College.

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