Romney hits 50 percent for first time in new ABC/WaPo tracking poll

Of the last seven national polls taken, he leads five and is tied in another. Four of those polls now have him up by exactly three points, and three of them — Rasmussen, Gallup, and this one — now have the race precisely at 50/47. Consensus.

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Romney does now boast a statistically — and substantively — important lead on the economy, which has long been the central issue of the race. When it comes to handling the nation’s struggling economy, 52 percent of likely voters say they trust Romney more, while 43 percent say they have more faith in the president…

Romney’s improvements on the economy — and on empathizing with the plight of those struggling financially — has been fueled by gains among political independents. Independents now side with Romney by campaign highs on both the economy (61 to 34 percent) and on understanding people’s problems (52 to 42 percent).

These advantages with independents undergird a sizable, 19 percentage-point Romney lead over Obama on the horse race. Should that advantage stick, it would be the sharpest tilt among independents in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide win. (Reagan won independent and other unaffiliated voters 63 to 36 percent, according to the exit poll). Obama won them by eight in 2008.

The curious thing about the ABC/WaPo tracker? As late as October 13, fully 10 days after Romney’s big debate win, they still had Obama up three points. The movement towards Mitt has come over the past 10 days, even though Obama supposedly “won” the last two debates. The obvious explanation is that fencesitters are tilting red as they think harder about O’s economic record; remember, while the insta-poll after the second debate had Obama ahead overall, it was Romney who scored big on the economy. That was what mattered. In fact, two of the four nights of interviews conducted for this poll came after Obama’s “victory” in the third debate, and yet Romney’s numbers are better now than they were on Monday, when he trailed by a point.

As for that mind-boggling lead among independents, the D+4 sample here is helping to neutralize it but it’s hard to imagine how Romney loses if he’s trending this way among indies and erasing the gender gap. I’m eager to see new polls from Ohio and Wisconsin next week; if there really is a 50/47 national consensus forming, it has to bleed into those states. Doesn’t it?

Meditate on that while you watch the greatest vice president in history in action.

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