Romney narrowly edged the president 47 percent to 45 percent in the poll, which is essentially a tossup, considering its 3.7 percent margin of error.

Independents, a growing political group that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 election, went for Romney 47 percent to 36 percent in the poll.

Independents remain a trouble spot for the president. A USA Today poll released last week showed Obama faces a considerable enthusiasm gap among independents, who turned out in force for to help propel him into the White House in 2008.

Romney is the only GOP candidate to defeat the president in a head-to-head matchup. Obama leads Newt Gingrich 49 percent to 44 percent, Ron Paul 46 percent to 41 percent, Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannKlobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' Michele Bachmann praises Trump: Americans will 'never see a more godly, biblical president' Will Biden lead a 'return to normalcy' in 2020? MORE 50 percent to 41 percent, and Rick Perry 50 percent to 40 percent.

The poll also measured the impact of a third-party candidate on the general election and found that the potential candidate with the largest amount of support is reality television host Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE.

Trump would take 19 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Obama and Romney, while Paul would take 17 percent.

But both of those scenarios would be devastating to Republican chances of regaining the White House. Obama would defeat Romney 45 percent to 31 percent if Trump were in the race, and he would win 42 percent to 37 percent if Paul were the third-party candidate.

Jon Huntsman would take 11 percent of the vote as an independent candidate in an election in which Obama would defeat Romney 43 percent to 37 percent, according to the poll.