Many mainstream Republicans have decried their party's candidates slugging it out over marriage, birth control and religion while ignoring issues such as jobs and the overall economy.
The wearing fight for the GOP nomination is reflected in the numbers of a Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll indicating the standing of the Democratic president appreciably superior to his position last year.
"We've not been talking about which would do a better job of running against Obama. We've been talking about who is the most or who is the least conservative," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group, who helped conduct the bipartisan poll. "That is a problem for Republicans."
The poll indicated the approval rating of the president at 53 percent, up 9 percentage points in four months. The president leads Mitt Romney by 10 points, at 53-43 and Rick Santorum by 11 percentage points, at 53-42, the poll shows.
Eight months before the election, merely a third of U.S. respondents said they believed the country is on the right track -- a percentage considered low for a president, the poll said. However that figure is double the number who said they believed it in November.
The telephone poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Feb. 19-22 by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.