The joint Washington Post-ABC News poll has become known for skewed samples that favor Barack Obama. Their new, convention eve national survey is no exception at D+9 (two points more Democratic than the wave year of 2008, and nine points higher than 2010). And yet...
The Republican National Convention opens this week with President Obama and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney running evenly, with voters more focused on Obama’s handling of the nation’s flagging economy than on some issues dominating the political debate in recent weeks. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney at 47 percent among registered voters and Obama at 46 percent — barely changed from the deadlocked contest in early July.
The Post-ABC survey highlights the dominance of the economy as an issue in the 2012 election. Seventy-two percent of voters say the president’s handling of the economy will be a “major factor” in their vote this November. Fewer voters place great significance on other issues that have roiled the campaign, including newly minted GOP vice presidential candidate’s plan to restructure Medicare, differences between the parties on women’s issues and Romney’s handling of his tax returns.
Keep in mind that this is a poll of registered, not likely, voters. Likely voter models are typically more favorable to the GOP, as the latest Fox News poll indicated. And again, only 22 percent of respondents to this poll are self-identified Republicans -- meaning that Romney is winning independents and peeling off some Democrats to overcome the poor partisan sample. There's good and bad news in the internals, all of which are colored by the screwy partisan breakdown. A few quick hits:
(1) Romney leads on the economy (barely), has a sizable advantage on deficits, and virtually splits with Obama on Medicare (good news, as far as Team Romney is concerned), and taxes (not quite as rosy).
(2) Voters split down the middle on whether Romney has released enough tax returns, with only 20 percent calling the controversy a "major factor" in making their decision. These people are called "liberals." The Obama campaign has spent millions trying to make this a huge deal -- most voters aren't biting.
(3) By contrast, 71 percent say Obama's handling of the economy qualifies as a "major factor."
(4) A small plurality favors the Ryan budget, but a larger group disapproves of the Medicare plan (as described by the poll question). By 21 points, voters approve of Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, though they don't see it as a game changer in either direction. Ryan looks like a wash, except in the enthusiasm category on the GOP side.
(5) A majority of voters attribute many of our economic problems to "unfairness" in the US system, a positive sign for Obama. On the other hand, a similarly large majority (56 percent) says it prefers a smaller government with fewer services than a bigger one. Fully 73 percent of voters associate Obama with the latter vision.
(6) In head-to-head likeability, Obama wins in a blowout, 64-25. Large majorities say both men have strong character. Republicans hope to boost Romney's image on these fronts at the RNC.
(7) Right track/wrong track is at 31/67, dangerous territory for an incumbent. The poll puts Obama's approval rating at 50 percent (oh, hi there partisan sample), but his economic approval is underwater by double digits.
(8) Only about 15 percent of registered voters say their vote is open to persuasion at this stage.
In short, this race is basically tied heading into the conventions, even as Romney's overall numbers have ticked up in recent days. The Akin mess hasn't infected the national Republican ticket, but that doesn't mean the press isn't trying hard. Check out this outrageous Associated Press headline, which might as well have been cooked up at Obama headquarters:
Romney's Convention: Big Storm, Rape Controversy
Mitt Romney is running against Democrats and the mainstream media. It's that simple.