President Obama has a narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the latest USA Today-Gallup swing-state poll, released late Sunday night.
Obama leads Romney 47 percent to 45 in the 12 battleground states that will play a critical role in determining the outcome of the 2012 election. That’s well within the poll’s margin of error, and is considerably tighter than the 9 percent lead Obama held in the same poll in March, before Romney had claimed the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee.
But this is also the first poll to be released since Obama officially kicked off his campaign over the weekend in the battleground states of Ohio and Virginia, and the survey finds that voter enthusiasm has swung sharply in favor of the Democrats.
In late 2011, Republicans held a 14-point lead among voters who said they were very or extremely likely to vote — that’s now an 11-point lead for the Democrats, a 25-point swing.
Obama will likely need to win about half of the electoral votes supplied by Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire if he is to secure a second term.
The president won all of those states in 2008, but just six months out from the general election, the USA Today poll reflects the tenuous grasp Obama has on these electoral votes the second time around.
The most important issue in the election will be the economy, and Romney leads Obama 47 percent to 44 among swing-state voters in that category.
While voters might view Romney as the more efficient manager of the economy, he’ll have to connect with them on a more personal level — 58 percent view Obama as the more likable candidate, compared to only 31 for Romney.
In addition, the gender gap has widened even further, and there is now a gaping 20 percent margin between women’s support for Obama and men’s support for Romney.
Obama leads Romney 52 to 40 among female voters, while Romney leads Obama 50 to 42 among men. In February, before Democrats made a play for female voters in the aftermath of the controversy over the administration’s contraception mandate, the difference was only 12 points.
The USA Today-Gallup poll was conducted between April 26 and May 2 and has a 4 percent margin of error.