Battleground Tracking Poll: President Obama retakes lead
By: James Hohmann
October 29, 2012 05:00 AM EDT
MARION, Ohio — With eight days to go until the election, President Barack Obama has recaptured a narrow national lead over Mitt Romney, riding increased support from women and an edge in early voting.
A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of 1,000 likely voters — taken from last Monday through Thursday — shows Obama ahead of Romney by 1 percent, 49 to 48 percent. That represents a 3-point swing in Obama’s direction from a week ago but reflects a race that remains statistically tied.
Obama leads by 8 points among those who have already voted, 53 to 45 percent. These early voters represent 15 percent of the electorate, with many more expected to vote in the next few days — though Hurricane Sandy could change that.
But the GOP nominee maintains a potentially pivotal advantage in intensity among his supporters. Sixty percent of those who support Obama say they are “extremely likely” to vote, compared to 73 percent who back Romney. Among this group, Romney leads Obama by 9 points, 53 to 44 percent.
By any measure, the race is neck-and-neck: 43 percent say they will “definitely” vote Romney, compared to 42 percent who say the same of the president.
On the generic congressional ballot, Republicans lead Democrats, 46 to 45 percent, after trailing slightly for much of the fall.
Obama leads among women by 11 points, 54 to 43 percent. The gap had narrowed to six points a week ago, but much of that survey was conducted before the GOP nominee’s comment at the second debate that he had reviewed “binders full of women” as part of a gender diversity effort as Massachusetts governor. Obama and his allies have also been hitting full swing at Romney as an enemy of womens’ rights on abortion and contraception in their advertising and speeches.
The president is now closer in standing to where he’s been the last few months, and the swing is due to female support. On every issue and question of character, women now favor Obama over Romney.
Men, meanwhile, support Romney over Obama by 12 points, 55 to 43 percent.
“The women have come back, and they look pretty locked in,” said Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who helped conduct the bipartisan poll. “The key is to win the women by as much as you’re losing the men by.”
Obama enters the final full week of the campaign with a 50 percent job approval rating, 51 percent personal favorability rating and 54 percent expecting him to win regardless of who they are supporting.
“You’ve got a majority now kind of lining up,” Lake said Sunday. “A majority is still a majority.”
Romney, though, is again winning independents. Driven largely by the economy, the Republican now leads with this set of swing voters by 10 points, 50 to 40 percent.
And the economy threatens to derail the president as much as ever: 54 percent overall disapprove of how he’s handled the most overwhelmingly important issue in the campaign. That’s the highest level since August. Nearly six in 10 disapprove of how the president is handling the budget and spending. And 56 percent believe the country is on the wrong track — 48 percent strongly so.
Romney is favored by 5 points, 51 to 46 percent, both on the questions of which candidate will better grow the economy and create more jobs. Significantly more strongly disapprove of his job performance, 44 percent, than strongly approve, 37 percent.
Among those who describe pocketbook issues as their top concern, which is 7 in 10 voters, Romney leads 56 to 41 percent.
Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group, who helped conduct the poll, said that the president has turned some voters off when he talks about good economic news because there is a disconnect between what they’re experiencing and what he’s describing. He warns that a bad jobs report this Friday could be a game-changer.
Goeas exuded confidence because of Romney’s sizable intensity edge.
“The closer we get to the election, the Democrats don’t appear offsetting our intensity with their ground game,” he said.
Lake acknowledges that it is “a real threat,” which puts an added imperative on turning out young, single and Latino voters.
Romney’s personal favorability has also continued to grow in the wake of the debates. He’s now viewed positively by 52 percent of respondents, up from 47 percent at the start of the month. Only 43 percent view him unfavorably, the lowest number since the primaries.
While Obama’s overall favorability is roughly the same, 51 percent, he finds himself underwater in the suburbs. Only 44 percent of suburban voters view Obama positively, compared to 54 percent who see him unfavorably. It’s a significantly bigger spread in rural America, but it’s offset by his 65 percent favorability in urban areas.
Both sides are spinning early vote numbers so hard that it’s hard to know the truth, and each party’s strength differs by state.
Goeas notes that this same poll exactly four years ago showed Obama up by 15 percent in the early vote, nearly twice his current edge of eight points. He said that more of the Obama voters are high propensity voters. But senior Obama campaign officials argue that those who have voted early are the hardest to turn out and didn’t vote in the 2010 elections.
“The reason why you saw the intensity pop toward the Republicans into the double digits this week is because [Democrats are] taking away their high intensity voters [through early voting],” said Goeas. “What we’re seeing in the data is indicative of that cannibalization.”
Lake said that Democrats clearly have the edge on early voting, but she puts more credence in actual numbers from the states.
“There are still lots of votes for him to go get so the turnout operation on Election Day is going to be very, very important,” she said. “It’s the ground game, on both sides.”
Obama maintained the nine-point foreign policy advantage he carried into the third and final debate last Monday, which focused on the subject. Asked which candidate has a better foreign policy, Obama is ahead 52 to 43 percent.
That debate in Florida also helped the president retake the lead on which candidate is the stronger leader, 49 to 46 percent, a four-point swing his direction from last week. Obama also grew his lead on the question of who “shares your values” from two to three points.
Obama retains an edge on other substantive issues. He’s up 2 points on which candidate has the better tax policy, six on who is better for Medicare and 13 on who stands up more for the middle class.
Romney continues to lead by four points on which of the two candidates can best get things done. The former governor spent Sunday on the campaign trail in Ohio trying to convert this advantage into an appeal to independents, highlighting how closely he worked with the opposition party in Massachusetts and noting that Paul Ryan has worked with Democrats in Congress.
“Romney has the advantage on the pocketbook issues and Obama has the advantage on more abstract issues,” said Goeas. “The final days of the campaign will most likely feature both candidates making a strong case about these individual strengths. The difference, as has been the case most of the fall campaign, will be that Romney will be focusing on issues that are the top concerns of most voters.”
The Battleground tracking poll will be performed each week and the results released each Monday through Election Day.
The POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground poll, conducted by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters from Oct. 22 to Oct. 25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.