With Mitt Romney now essentially locked in as the GOP candidate, pollsters are taking up the task of divining his chances against Barack Obama.
And, with around six months to go, it’s looking like a tough fight awaits both candidates.
A fresh POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll shows a virtual dead heat between Obama and Romney, with the former Massachusetts governor leading by a statistically meaningless point at 48 percent versus the incumbent’s 47 percent.
That shows some slipping on Obama’s side: he led Romney by 9 points overall in a February poll from POLITICO.
Another interesting nugget from the poll shows that concern over an ugly primary season tarnishing Romney may have been overblown.
With Newt Gingrich only having stepped out of the race last week, GOP voters have quickly and solidly rallied behind the man he branded a “vulture capitalist” – a formidable 91 percent of Republicans say they back Romney.
Democratic poll analyst Celinda Lake told POLITICO that the numbers show a predictable narrowing of the gap that comes with a more defined race. But Obama might be suffering from some curbed enthusiasm among Democratic voters disappointed with his tenure.
“You have both sides very consolidated,” Lake said. “There are no signs of fissures on either side, but you have the Democrats less enthusiastic than the Republicans.”
A similar picture of a tight race emerged in the recent USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States Poll – a survey of 12 states that could go to either candidate come November.
Looking at those figures, USA Today declared a tie, with Obama taking 47 percent among registered voters versus Romney’s 45 percent.
But the same poll counters any perceived lack of enthusiasm among Democrats, at least in the dozen battleground states sampled.
“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,” USA Today notes.