By Steve Holland
TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Mitt Romney enters Republican convention week facing serious challenges in his drive to unseat President Barack Obama in the November 6 election, with the Democrat outscoring him on eloquence and likability, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday.
But many factors weigh in the Republican's favor as he seeks a boost from his Tampa, Florida, convention. An overwhelming majority of Americans believe the U.S. economy is on the wrong track, the poll found.
The convention that will nominate Romney as the Republican candidate to face Obama begins in earnest on Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor addresses thousands of delegates gathered for the event on Thursday.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were ahead of Romney and running mate Paul Ryan by 46 percent to 42 percent, according to the online poll. The Obama team led the Republicans by 16 percentage points among independents, a key voting bloc that could tip the election in battleground states.
It was the first installment of a four-day rolling poll by Reuters/Ipsos which will measure and track attitudes during the Republican and Democratic conventions.
Other polls have shown Obama and Romney neck-and-neck and the Republican's campaign officials believe they are in good position to upset the Democrat in November given that Romney has withstood a barrage of negative attacks from Obama over the summer.
The poll found that Obama far outstrips Romney on who is more eloquent by 51 percent to 21 percent. Obama also gets higher likability numbers, with 54 percent to 26 percent finding him more likeable.
Forty-seven percent say he is "a good person," compared to 29 percent for Romney, and 48 percent said Obama would be "fun to meet in person," while 21 percent said that about Romney.
Romney is seeking to use his convention this week to improve his likability performance with several speakers expected to talk up his life and career as a family man, former businessman, and ex-governor.
The one trait where Romney leads by a large margin is "a man of faith" -- 40 percent for Romney against 28 percent for Obama.
The two candidates were within a few points of each other on "will protect American jobs," 36 percent for Obama against 33 percent for Romney. There were identical numbers on the question of who "can be effective in Washington."
A host of factors that arose in the poll should serve as warning signs for the president despite his advantages over the lesser-known Republican.
According to the poll, 75 percent believe the economy is on the wrong track, 83 percent believe the same of fuel and gasoline prices, and 79 percent think "your cost of living" is doing badly.
Both Biden and Ryan were viewed unfavorably by more voters than favorable.
Biden, who drew criticism for telling a crowd in former slave state Virginia that Romney wanted to "put y'all back in chains," was viewed favorably by 49 percent to 51 percent who see him unfavorably.
Ryan, whose proposed budget plan would lead to deep budget cuts and changes to the Medicare healthcare plan for seniors, was viewed favorably by 48 percent to 52 percent who viewed him unfavorably.
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Jim Loney)