The White House can’t be pleased by today’s numbers from Gallup.  Barack Obama does no better than a tie against Mitt Romney nationally at 47 each — and in swing states, he trails by a point at 46/47:

Registered voters nationally and in 12 key swing states are evenly divided in their preferences for president in the 2012 election between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. Romney is at least somewhat more competitive versus Obama than either Rick Perry or Herman Cain, in polling conducted before the recent allegations of sexual harassment against Cain surfaced.

The “swing state” results are from the initial USA Today/Gallup Swing States poll, based on Oct. 20-27 Gallup Daily tracking in 12 states that will be among the most crucial to winning the 2012 presidential election. The states include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. USA Today and Gallup will report on voters’ preferences in this group of states at least monthly leading up to the 2012 election.

The comparison national presidential trial-heat results reported above are based on Gallup Daily tracking Oct. 26-27. These are similar to what Gallup measured nationally earlier this year. Romney and Obama were essentially tied in Gallup’s September presidential trial heat update, with Obama having a slight edge versus Perry. This is Gallup’s first measurement of Obama versus Cain. In general, these trial heats are more favorable to Obama than Gallup’s measure of Obama versus a generic Republican, which generally shows Obama trailing.

Actually, Rick Perry isn’t all that far behind Obama, either.  He trails 45/49 nationally and 44/49 in the swing states.  Herman Cain does a little better at 46/48 and 45/48 respectively, but the poll was taken last week, before the publication of allegations against Cain from his days at the National Restaurant Association.  While Cain appears to be holding his Republican voters, it’s probably safe to assume the overall numbers will sag in the next iteration of this survey.

However, the big problem for Obama is not the numbers, but their timing.  Every Republican primary contender has a disadvantage in these surveys as Democrats are fairly united on Obama as their nominee, while Republicans are passionately split on theirs.  Romney, for instance, has had a consistent cap on support from GOP primary voters of about 25-28%, with plenty of anti-Romney — and yet he manages to muscle into a tie with registered voters.  Rick Perry has descended into single digits in some primary polling, and yet he gets within 4 or 5 points of Obama.  And while the media tried to paint Cain as a novelty candidate, the Georgia business leader grabs a virtual tie with the leader of the free world.

When Republicans unite around a nominee, Obama will find himself in a deep hole.