Polls: Obama, Romney in dead heat

President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a statistical dead heat nationally and in the 12 battleground states likely to decide the election, according to a series of polls released this week. 

Romney holds a 1-point lead over Obama in Gallup’s national five-day rolling average of polls released Monday, which has a 3 percentage point margin of error. 

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But Obama edges Romney by 2 points in the latest USA Today-Gallup poll of 12 swing states. That poll, also released Monday, has a 4-point margin of error. 

The two polls suggest a drum-tight race six months before Election Day. 

Voters in Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire are likely to determine the next occupant of the Oval Office. 

Obama won all of those states in 2008, but Romney expects to run strongly in all of them this year. 

In March, Obama held a 9-point lead in the USA Today survey, highlighting the bump Romney has received since wrapping up the GOP nomination. 

A bright spot in the poll for Obama, who officially launched his campaign Saturday, is that voter enthusiasm has swung sharply in favor of Democrats.

Democrats now hold an 11-point lead among voters very or extremely likely to vote. That’s a 25-point swing from late 2011, when Republicans held a 14-point lead among those voters. 

At Obama’s weekend rally at Ohio State University on Saturday, the 18,000-seat stadium was not sold out, underlining fears about a drop in enthusiasm for the president. 

The president’s campaign emphasized that 14,000 people showed up, more than twice most estimates for Romney’s largest crowd to date. 

The economy remains the most important issue in the election, and Romney leads Obama 47 percent to 44 among swing-state voters asked who would better handle the economy. 

Romney is also viewed as the more effective manager, an indication that his campaign’s attempt to portray the former Massachusetts governor as a capable businessman ready to step in and clean house has been a success.

Obama’s campaign is focusing its efforts on swing-state voters and the economy, and on Monday announced a $25 million ad buy in nine swing states. The first ad focuses on the difficult economy the president inherited and touts his success with the auto-industry bailout. 

If Obama has a problem on the economy, one problem for Romney is his likability. 

Fifty-eight percent view Obama as the more likable candidate, compared to only 31 who see Romney as likable in the swing-state poll.

According to the USA Today-Gallup poll, the gender gap in swing states has widened even further, and there is now a gaping 20-point margin between women’s support for Obama and men’s support for Romney.

Obama leads Romney 52 percent to 40 among female voters, and on Monday’s conference call with reporters, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod kept the pressure on, saying Romney’s stances are “not the right positions for women in the 21st century” and that Romney will “take us back 50 years” on issues like contraception.

But the poll also found Romney extending his lead among male voters, with whom he now leads Obama 50 percent to 42. Working-class white men have always been a problem for Obama, and give Romney a change to neutralize the president’s advantage with women.

Independents could be the tipping point for the eventual winner. The latest findings from Washington think tank the Third Way show that independent registration is up nearly 6 percent in six battleground states, while Democrats and Republicans both saw declines in registration.

According to a Politico-George Washington University poll released Monday, Romney leads by 10 points among independents, while the USA Today-Gallup poll showed that those who are currently undecided have a tendency to lean Republican.