The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Barack Obama only three points ahead of Mitt Romney, 49/46, within the margin of error.  The poll also shows Obama’s advantage among women dissipating, and the President falling further behind his challenger on the economy.  All of this is rather amazing, given the manner in which Republicans keep shrinking in the sample series:

After months of aggressive campaigning on jobs and the economy, President Obama and Mitt Romney, his likely Republican challenger, are locked in a dead heat over who could fix the problem foremost on voters’ minds, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The parity on economic issues foreshadows what probably will continue to be a tough and negative campaign. Overall, voters would be split 49 percent for Obama and 46 percent for Romney if the November election were held now. On handling the economy, they are tied at 47 percent.

Despite flare-ups over issues including contraception and same-sex marriage, more than half of all Americans cite the economy as the one concern that will decide their vote in the fall, relegating others — such as health care, taxes and the federal deficit — to single-digit status.

In other words, the shiny-object distraction strategy from Team Obama hasn’t worked out as planned.  Neither has the sample strategy from the WaPo/ABC pollster.  Today’s D/R/I is 32/22/38, which means this model would only be predictive for a turnout model where only 22% of voters are Republican.  Just to remind readers, the 2008 turnout split from exit polls showed a 39/32/29 split, and that was considered a nadir for Republican turnout.  In the 2010 midterms, the split was 35/35/30.

Take a close look at the Republican representation in WaPo/ABC polls this year. Starting in January, that has been 25%, 23%, 27%, 23%, and now 22%.  The pollster seems incapable of finding a representative number of Republicans for this poll series.  Perhaps that should give the two news organizations involved a hint about finding a new pollster.

Even with this poor sampling, though, Obama can’t gain any momentum.  His job approval dropped in this series from 50/45 to 47/49.  His rating on the economy sank to 42/55, not as bad as March’s 38/59 but slipping from last month’s 44/54.  Among all adults (as in the preceding figures), Obama only leads Romney by 4, 49/45 — and a Democrat who can’t get to 50% among general-population adults is in serious trouble.  The 49/46 comes from registered voters, with its substantial handicap among Republicans.

How important, by the way, was gay marriage to voters in this poll?  A whopping 1% think it’s the most important issue.  In contrast, “morals/family values” went up from 3% in January to 5% in May.  “Health care/repealing ObamaCare” also increased, from 3% in January to 7% in May, but it came in a very distant second to the economy and jobs, which took 52%.  So much for the distraction strategy, indeed.