President Barack Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in a general election matchup, but comedian Stephen Colbert could put a kink in the president’s plans if he were to run as an independent candidate, according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling.
In a head-to-head match up, Obama gets 49 percent to Romney’s 44 percent. The president has slightly widened his lead in the past month: PPP’s December poll had Romney leading the president, 47 percent to 45 percent.
Enter Stephen Colbert.
If the comedian should decide to abandon his exploratory committee for the Republican party and abandon encouraging South Carolina Republicans to vote for Herman Cain in favor of an actual run on an independent ticket, he would attract 13 percent of the vote, pulling Obama down to 41 percent and Romney to 38 percent.
The net impact would be a narrowing of Obama’s advantage against Romney from five percentage points to just three.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, by contrast, gets only 7 percent of the vote in a three-way race, but he causes some trouble for Romney, giving Obama a seven-point lead over the Republican front-runner.
To make a successful run, Colbert would have to broaden his name recognition. At the moment, 36 percent of those polled say they have no opinion of him, though he does boast an 8 percent net positive favorability rating.
He polls best with voters who identify as “somewhat liberal,” getting a favorable rating from 66 percent of those voters, and gets 46 percent favorability among “very liberal” voters and 42 percent among moderates. Among “somewhat” to “very” conservative voters, on the other hand, just 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively, say they hold a favorable opinion of him.
In general, Romney’s standing with independent voters appears to have taken a dive. PPP points out that in December, independents preferred Romney to Obama by a 9-point margin. Now 51 percent say they would vote for Obama, and just 41 percent for Romney.
The poll is based on an automated survey of voters nationwide conducted from January 13 to January 17.