Mitt Romney has surged well ahead of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination and is in a virtual tie with President Obama in the general election, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released early Tuesday.
Romney, unable to put a significant distance between himself and the rest of the GOP field for most of 2011, now leads his closest rivals by a more than two-to-one margin. Romney leads among registered Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters with 36 percent saying they have voted for him or would vote for him. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, tied for second place, each with 16 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is at 13 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is at 9 percent. Supporters of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who ended his presidential campaign on Monday, were reallocated according to their second choice (if they had not already voted in their state's nominating contest).
Republicans nationwide overwhelmingly think Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, will be their party's nominee: 72 percent think he will win the GOP nod. Last month, 40 percent thought Romney would win, while 35 percent picked Gingrich.
Romney's advantage over the rest of the GOP pack is commanding: More Republicans even trust Romney to handle the issue of health care, a perceived Romney weakness, than any other candidate. Romney leads Gingrich, 28 percent to 18 percent, on that measure.
Among all registered voters, Romney has a two-point lead over Obama, 48 percent to 46 percent—well within the poll's margin of error. Last month, the two candidates were tied at 47 percent. And over the past year, never have the two been separated by more than four points.
The other GOP candidates fall short of Romney's performance in the general election: Gingrich trails Obama by 12 points, Paul by 7 points, and Santorum by 11 points.
President Obama's approval rating among all adults, released late Monday, is 48 percent. The same share of Americans disapprove of his job performance. That is roughly equal to his 49 to 47 percent approval/disapproval rating a month ago, but it is still improved from the fall, when majorities of Americans disapproved of his job performance in three consecutive months.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted Jan. 12 to 15, surveying 1,000 adults. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 3.1 percent. There were 867 registered voters for the general-election matchups; those results have a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.
For the subsample of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, there were 414 adult Republicans, for a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percent. Of that subsample, 376 were registered to vote; the margin of error for the GOP primary matchup is +/- 5.1 percent.