A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll of likely voters shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 49 percent to 47 percent. That’s a point closer than a week ago and still within the margin of error.
The poll shows Romney leading among independents by 4 points. It also confirms that Obama faces an uphill battle with this group. Independents give Romney a 14-point edge on jobs and an 11-point edge on the economy. And more than 60 percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy and spending. Romney ties Obama with this group on who is the stronger leader and leads by 9 points on who has the best ability to get things done.
In other words, the “fundamentals” strongly favor Romney among independents. When all is said and done, this edge could quite plausibly translate into a margin of more than 4 points with this cohort.
But even a 4 point advantage would be consequential. According to Politico, Obama won independents by 7 percent in 2008, and that, essentially, was his margin of victory.
The Politico/GW poll also found that enthusiasm for Obama among Democrats has diminished. Only 75 percent of Democrats in the poll sample say they are extremely likely to vote. A few weeks ago, in the afterglow of their convention, 81 percent of Democrats said they are “extremely likely” to do so. Republican enthusiasm, meanwhile, has held steady at around 80 percent.
If Romney holds or expands his lead among independents, Obama will need high intensity from Democrats.
Finally, the poll gives Obama a strong advantage in the realm of foreign policy. Even after the attack on our embassy in Libya, and revelations of the administration’s mishandling of the situation and its aftermath, Obama leads by 12 points on who is better able to handle foreign policy. Last week, he led by 9 points in this poll on that issue.
I should add, however, that a recent Bloomberg poll provides, at a minimum, an interesting footnote to this point. It found that Romney holds a 48-42 advantage over Barack Obama on the question of which candidate would be tougher on terrorism.
“Toughness on terrorism” doesn’t equal “better able to handle foreign policy.” But if the public now perceives Romney as tougher on terrorism, this should offset, at least partially, Obama’s perceived advantage on foreign policy, especially now that everyone finally agrees we suffered a deadly terrorist attack this past 9/11.