President Barack Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he'd lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he'd lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy News Service-Marist poll.

The biggest reason for Obama's fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November's midterm elections. At the same time, he's gained nothing among independents.

"He's having the worst of both worlds right now," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the national survey.

"As he moves to the center, he's not picking up support among independents and he's having some fall-off among his base. If his strategy is to gain independents and keep the Democrats in tow, it isn't working so far."

The poll was taken from Dec. 2 through Wednesday, as the president proposed a two-year freeze on federal civilian workers' pay and cut a deal with congressional Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts — even those for the wealthy, which he'd opposed.

Overall, just 42 percent of registered voters approve of how he's doing his job, while 50 percent disapprove.

Obama's standing among Democrats dropped from a month ago, with his approval rating falling to 74 percent from 83 percent, and his disapproval rating rising from 11 percent to 21 percent.

The president's continued failure to rally independents could ruin his bid for re-election. A hypothetical 2012 matchup showed him getting the support of 44 percent of registered voters and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, getting 46 percent.

Obama is running slightly ahead of Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, drawing 47 percent to Huckabee's 43 percent. Both results were within the poll's margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

He would easily defeat Republican former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however; he'd get 52 percent of registered voters and she'd get 40 percent, if the election were held today.