Politico/GWU poll: Obama up 1, Romney up 2 in swing states

Earlier, I wrote about the sampling issues with the WaPo/ABC poll, and the new Politico/GWU Battleground poll has its issues there, too, if less pronounced.  However, the poll shows a topline edge for Barack Obama, by one point nationally, but Mitt Romney up two points in the swing states.  More interestingly — and perhaps more worrisome for Team Obama — this poll also shows that voters are deciding that Romney isn’t the murderous vampire capitalist as the President’s campaign had painted him:

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll of likely voters puts Obama ahead of Romney 49 percent to 48 percent, a statistical tie and the same as the week before. Across the 10 states identified by POLITICO as competitive, Romney leads 50 percent to 48 percent.

Even as the head-to-head number held stubbornly steady for the past month, Romney improved his likability numbers. A slim majority, 51 percent, now views Romney favorably as a person, while 44 percent view him unfavorably.

The former Massachusetts governor had been underwater on this measure. In mid-September, 49 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably. Going into the first presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, the electorate was evenly split 47 percent to 47 percent on what to make of Mitt.

Usually, favorability numbers for an opponent only have an indirect impact on a candidate.  Favorability is not necessarily a zero-sum game; both candidates can be likable to a voter, even when he chooses one over the other. In this case, though, Team Obama has made Romney’s likability an overt strategy in this election.  They spent all summer painting him as a Richie Rich who couldn’t possibly care about the middle class, a man who caused cancer and ate American jobs for breakfast while off-shoring them as a mid-afternoon snack.

That created a credibility risk for Obama, especially in the first debate.  As soon as voters found out that Romney wasn’t the boogeyman that Team Obama had built up in their campaign, the obvious conclusion is that Team Obama had lied about him.  That’s the risk of going so personal in a campaign, and it’s coming back to bite the Hope And Change candidate.

The internals are poor for Obama, too, especially with independents.  His job approval is -6 among unaffiliated voters, 45/51.  It’ss -16 among “ticket splitters,” 40/56.  On the re-elect numbers, the overall gender gap is, pardon the expression, neutered: Obama has a +11 among women at 54/43, and Romney has a +11 among men with the same split. Romney has an eight-point lead among independents, 49/41, and among “ticket splitters,” it goes to a +11, 50/39.  Romney also has a huge lead among seniors at 57/40 and a ten point lead among middle-aged voters (45-64) at 54/44.

The sample in this poll isn’t nearly as bad as the WaPo/ABC poll, but it’s still a little low on Republicans.  The D/R/I is 36/32/30, for a D+4, a defensible turnout model for the election.   It assumes that relative Democratic turnout will be slightly higher than 2010’s 35%, which is also defensible, but that relative Republican turnout will be the same as in 2008 at 32% — and that doesn’t seem likely, especially with the enthusiasm numbers we’re seeing from pollsters over the last couple of months.

Bottom line: if Romney’s winning seniors by 17 and independents by eight, he’s got more than a one-point lead in better position than one point down nationally.

Update: I misread the poll and initially had Romney up one in the headline and first paragraph.  I’ve corrected it, thanks to Justin Higgins in the comments.

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