President Obama and Mitt Romney remain deadlocked in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, heightening the stakes for the Republican National Convention this week and making it almost certain that Romney will leave Tampa with a lead over the incumbent if he gets even the slightest bump from the national exposure. The poll, released on Monday, has Romney with 47 percent among registered voters to Obama’s 46 percent, essentially unchanged since the previous survey in July. In that poll, the two candidates were tied at 46 percent.
The poll suggests that the race has settled into a near-tie less than 100 days before the election and only a month before early-voting states such as Ohio begin to collect ballots. And it suggests that Romney has regained his footing after a rough spring and summer when he was still trying to consolidate his party after a tough primary battle.
The reason for Obama’s troubles is easy to pinpoint: his weakness on the issue that is most important to most voters, the economy. Fully 71 percent of voters said that the economy would be a major factor in their vote, compared with only 28 percent who said it would be a minor factor or no factor at all. And there is not much doubt that the public mood toward the economy is decidedly sour. Only 15 percent said that the economy today is excellent (1 percent) or good (14 percent), while a whopping 84 percent said it is “not so good” (39 percent) or poor (45 percent).
Even worse for Obama, a third of the voters say that the economy is his fault, although he still trails former President George W. Bush, who gets blamed by a majority, 54 percent. In another sign of the closeness of the race, neither candidate has sold himself as the economy’s savior. Fifty-seven percent said they lack confidence that the economy will improve if Obama wins and 55 percent said they lack confidence it will improve if Romney wins. Because of the centrality of the issue, this could be the key to the election.
Less key are all the other issues. The poll found Obama with double-digit advantages over Romney on women’s issues (53 percent to 32 percent), social issues (55 percent to 34 percent), energy (49 percent to 37 percent), international affairs (48 percent to 37 percent), education (47 percent to 37 percent) and smaller advantages on health care (49 percent to 42 percent), small business (49 percent to 42 percent), taxes (46 percent to 44 percent), and Medicare (43 percent to 42 percent). Romney’s biggest issue advantage is on dealing with the deficit where he is more trusted than Obama 48 percent to 39 percent. He also has a slight advantage on the economy, 46 percent to 44 percent.
The president also has a decisive advantage over Romney when voters were asked which candidate “seems like the more friendly and likable person.” Sixty-four percent said Obama to only 25 percent who said Romney, a finding that goes far to explain why the architects of the Tampa convention are determined to use their time in Florida to sell Romney to voters they hope do not yet really know him.
The poll was conducted by phone Aug. 22 to 25, with a random sample of 1,002 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.