Poll: Obama fading in match-ups against Romney, Santorum

A new poll out Monday shows the two GOP front-runners holding steady in hypothetical head-to-head general-election match-ups with President Obama and leading him in a grouping of 12 key swing states.

Mitt Romney and Obama are deadlocked at 47 percent in the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll of national voters, with the GOP challenger edging the incumbent 48 percent to 46 in a dozen battleground states identified by the survey.

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That's a strong showing for the former Massachusetts governor, who was trailing Obama by as much as 8 percentage points in an Associated Press poll released last week. 

Mitt Romney's chief primary opponent, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), has an even stronger showing against Obama in the poll, leading the president 50 percent to 45 in swing states and 49 percent to 46 nationally.

Again, that's a dramatic gain for the GOP contender, whom an Associated Press poll released last week showed trailing President Obama by 9 percentage points. Santorum had not led in any major February match-up poll.

The poll suggests that the president's popularity is dampened by his expansive healthcare reform law, which 53 percent of voters in swing states and half of voters nationwide perceive as negative. That's versus just 38 percent of voters in swing states and 42 percent of voters nationwide who view the healthcare legislation favorably.


And despite provisions that allow children to stay on their parents' health insurance longer and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, only 11 percent of voters nationwide say the bill has helped them. The vast majority — around seven in 10 — say that the legislation has had no effect on their family, while 17 percent of voters nationwide say the legislation will hurt.

As further evidence of the law's unpopularity, only two in 10 voters think it will be helpful in the long run, while a third think it will make no difference and four in 10 believe it will worsen their healthcare outcomes.

Meanwhile, more than half of voters in swing states favor repealing the law if a Republican is elected in November, while nearly a third say they "strongly" favor repeal. That figure does drop nationwide, where the majority of Americans oppose overturning the law. 

But with such a poor showing in important swing states that the president must hold in November to secure reelection — and with three-quarters of Americans saying that a requirement to buy health insurance is unconstitutional — Obama faces an uphill battle in defending the law come November.

USA Today has not yet released a full breakdown of how the survey was conducted, so it's unclear whether the questions about the unpopular healthcare package might be responsible for the Republican candidates' unusually strong showing in the match-up polls. Oftentimes, if questions about a certain unpopular event or accomplishment precede general polling questions, they can dampen a candidate's showing. Nevertheless, the numbers reveal that the president remains vulnerable on his signature piece of legislation from his first term.