Polls: Presidential race still a dead heat

Two new polls, one continuing result.  Both a USA Today/Gallup poll taken in 12 swing states and a Politico/GWU poll taken nationwide show the upcoming presidential race to be a dead heat.  In the USAT/Gallup survey, Obama has a narrow two-point lead in the swing states:

The first USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States Poll since the GOP settled on a presumptive nominee shows big challenges for each side: Mitt Romney in generating enthusiasm and a personal connection with his supporters, and Barack Obama in convincing Americans he should be trusted to manage a fragile economy.

The president and the former Massachusetts governor start their head-to-head contest essentially even among registered voters — Obama 47%, Romney 45% — in the dozen battleground states likely to determine the election’s outcome. That’s closer than the lead of 9 percentage points for Obama in the Swing States survey in late March.

But the poll also finds a reversal in what has been a key GOP asset in the five previous battleground surveys taken since last fall: an edge in enthusiasm among voters. For the first time, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting — a shift from a 14-percentage-point GOP advantage at the end of last year to an 11-point deficit now.

That sounds more like the fallout of the primary rather than an issue in the general election.  The gift from Hilary Rosen in the form of an attack on Ann Romney sped up the unity process, but it won’t be complete for another few weeks.  Romney hasn’t been an inspirational figure among the activist base, but now that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have withdrawn, he won’t need to be.  Barack Obama will fire up the GOP base enough, and if Romney continues his attack on Obama’s record on jobs and the economy, he will generate plenty of enthusiasm himself.

The key point from this survey of the 12 states is that even without GOP enthusiasm, the incumbent isn’t scoring above 47%.  That’s not a number for certain defeat, but an incumbent President should be seeing better numbers than that at this point if he expects to get a second term.  Voter already know Obama, and 47% isn’t a number that reflects enthusiasm for continued employment in the position of President.

Romney gets the edge in the new Politico/GWU poll:

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll finds a dead heat in the presidential race six months before the election.

Mitt Romney edged out President Barack Obama 48 percent to 47 percent among likely voters, a number well within the margin of error, as Republicans rapidly consolidate behind the likely GOP nominee.

This one has bad news for Obama among independents:

The former Massachusetts governor has opened up a 10-point lead, 48 percent to 38 percent, among independents in a poll conducted Sunday, April 29 through Thursday, May 3 and a 6-point lead among those who describe themselves as “extremely likely” to vote in November. Obama led Romney by 9 points overall in POLITICO’s February’s poll.

But there are suggestions that these numbers are extremely fluid: Obama holds double-digit leads over the presumptive Republican nominee on issues such as who will better handle foreign policy and who will stand up for the middle class and on “sharing your values.” But enduring concern about the economy — by far the most important issue to voters — keeps the president in a tenuous position despite employment numbers that show slight but steady improvement.

That’s actually nonsense. The overall number of jobs has declined over the last two months, which has apparently escaped Politico’s notice.  It only looks like an improvement because of the statistical effect of having so many people leaving the workforce.

The key takeaway here is the standing among independents.  In 2008, Obama won independents by eight points.  If he’s trailing by ten, there is not much chance of him winning a second term, unless Obama and the Democrats can demoralize Republicans and independents into staying home on Election Day.  That’s the strategy behind their relentlessly negative campaign, but it’s not likely to work if the economy keeps sinking over the summer.  The pressure to reject Obama will be too great at that point, and Obama will have more problem getting Democrats to the polls — and to support him when they go.

Note: The D/R/I on the Politico/GWU poll looks pretty decent at 37/34/29, a model that would split the difference between 2008 and 2012.  The USA Today/Gallup poll on swing states didn’t include any of the demographic information, at least not through the USA Today article.

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