Poll: Obama, Romney in statistical dead heat

Mitt Romney would fare the best against President Obama in a national election and holds a slight lead over the incumbent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Tuesday.

Romney leads Obama 48 percent to 46 percent, although that’s within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percent. In the same poll taken in December, Obama led Romney 49 percent to 46 percent.

The Romney campaign has tried to frame the former Massachusetts governor as the most electable candidate in the Republican presidential field, and this poll helps support that assertion.

Obama leads Newt Gingrich 52 percent to 40 percent, Ron Paul 49 percent to 42 percent, and Rick Santorum 52 percent to 41 percent.

Republican voters are starting to view Romney as the inevitable nominee: 72 percent said they thought he would win the nomination, while no other candidate broke double digits.

Romney won the Iowa caucuses earlier this month by just eight votes and followed that with a convincing win in the New Hampshire primary. Polls show him holding a healthy lead heading into Saturday’s South Carolina primary and running away from the GOP field in Florida.

A general election between Romney and Obama would be extremely close if held today; both candidates would have the full backing of voters in their party but split the independent votes, according to the poll.

A majority in the poll cited the economy as the top issue in the election, which could help Romney if the recovery remains weak.

The president has signaled that he intends to run against the “do-nothing Congress,” and while Congress as a whole is wildly unpopular, the poll shows that Republicans in Congress are more unpopular than Democrats.

Thirty-three percent approve of Democrats in Congress, compared to 62 percent who disapprove. Only 21 percent approve of Republicans in Congress, compared to 75 percent who disapprove.

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