Boom: Mitt Romney: 46, Barack Obama: 44

Daniel Doherty

4/13/2012 11:55:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

Although this poll was released last night, it should nevertheless still give conservatives something to cheer about. For only the second time since Fox News began conducting their head-to-head matchup surveys, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is polling higher than the president.

Republican Mitt Romney holds a slim edge over President Obama in a head-to-head matchup, a Fox News poll released Thursday shows. In addition, the poll finds the president’s job rating has dropped to its lowest point of the year.

In a presidential matchup, Romney tops Obama by 46-44 percent if the election were today.

As with every Romney-Obama matchup in the past six months, the race is so tight that it is within the poll’s margin of sampling error. This, however, is only the second time the Fox News poll shows Romney on top. The first time was November 2011, when he was also up by 2 percentage points.

Interestingly, as the pollsters note, support for the two candidates is evenly divided along partisan lines: 85 percent of Republicans support Mitt Romney and 85 percent of Democrats support President Obama. Still, the most sought after voting bloc – independents – prefer the former Massachusetts governor (43 percent) over the president (37 percent). That being said, 21 percent of independents are either undecided or won’t vote for a major party candidate next fall. No surprises here. However, based on the Fox News survey conducted last month, President Obama seems to be losing support among a key demographic that overwhelmingly supported him four years ago.

More to the point, though, there have been innumerable discussions in recent weeks that Mitt Romney is incapable of connecting with women. While true in some respects, he’s not the only candidate struggling to galvanize the electorate.

The poll shows the gender gap may not solely be a problem for the Republican candidate. Women are more likely to back Obama (by 49-41 percent), while men are even more likely to give their support to Romney (by 52-38 percent). The 2008 Fox News national exit poll showed women voted for Obama over Republican John McCain by 13 percentage points (56-43 percent). Historically, exit poll results show women have consistently backed the Democrat over the Republican in presidential elections.

Obama’s overall job approval rating stands at 42 percent, down from 47 percent last month. The drop comes mainly from Democrats: 80 percent approve now, down from 86 percent in March. A 51 percent majority of voters disapproves of the job Obama is doing.

What’s more, as the Fox News survey indicates, the outcome of the 2012 presidential election will almost certainly come down to the economy.

Not surprisingly, more voters prioritize the economy than any other issue tested. Just under half of voters say the federal budget deficit (45 percent) and health care (44 percent) will be “extremely” important in their presidential vote decision.

Among voters who say the economy is "extremely” important, Romney has a 55-37 percent advantage over Obama, and a 62-29 percent edge among those who say the same of the federal deficit. The two candidates are essentially tied among people who say health care is extremely important.

This is encouraging news for Team Romney. But alas, the election is still a long ways off.

Update: Mitt Romney is also on top in a new Rasmussen Tracking poll. Did the House Minority Leader miss the memo?