Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Remember all the pundits who warned that the poisonous Republican presidential primary battles threatened to divide the GOP and seriously weaken their nominee? They were wrong.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who will be the party's 2012 presidential standard-bearer, has not only seen his party support soar, he has also taken the lead in the head-to-head matchup polls against President Obama.

It didn't make the network news shows Monday night, but the Gallup Poll officially began its daily tracking polls in the presidential race this week. Its survey of registered voters across the country showed Romney with a five-point lead over Obama -- 48 percent to 43 percent.

Notably, Romney led Obama among independent swing voters -- the politically unaffiliated people who will most likely decide this election -- by 45 percent to 39 percent.

Equally revealing was Gallup's finding that Romney and Obama "are supported by 90 percent of their respective partisans." So much for a divided party.

One of the most remarkable attributes of the modern presidential primary system is that no matter how fiercely and bitterly the warring factions battle each other over the nomination, in the end they usually put aside the political feuds and rally around their presumptive nominee. That's what is happening now.

Once former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum dropped out of the race earlier this month, there was only one overriding focus left for the Republicans: Defeating President Obama. He's the glue that's uniting the GOP behind Romney's candidacy.

This does not mean that Romney hasn't a lot of work to do among Republicans who were not his supporters in the early primaries -- especially women.

But a Washington Post/ABC News Poll showed Tuesday that Republicans were rallying behind Romney and that he was consolidating the GOP's conservative base. This poll also found him "picking up significant support from GOP men."

"Sixty-nine percent of Republicans -- including 80 percent of conservative Republicans -- now hold favorable views of the former governor," the poll report said.

(Note: The Post/ABC survey is based on a sampling of "adults," which is a much less accurate reading of election trends than the Gallup poll of registered voters or, best of all, likely voters.)

But Romney has his work cut out for him among women voters and Latinos, where Obama has strong support. The Post survey reported 58 percent of women hold favorable views of the president, while Romney is seen unfavorably by 52 percent of women.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.