CBS News/NY Times Poll: Romney: 46, Obama: 46

Posted: Apr 18, 2012 9:54 AM

Given the amount of polls that have dropped in the last 48 hours, each survey showing different and sometimes conflicting results, it’s difficult to gauge who is actually the frontrunner. Nevertheless, a new CBS News/NY Times poll released today is significant for a number of different reasons, most notably because it shows the candidates locked in a dead heat.

Mitt Romney has closed the gap with President Obama among registered voters, a CBS News/New York Times poll released Wednesday found, putting the former Massachusetts governor in a dead heat with the president for the White House.

Mr. Obama and Romney each received support from 46 percent of registered voters when asked who they would vote for if the election were held today. In March, a CBS News/New York Times survey found that Mr. Obama held a slight advantage over Romney of 47 percent to 44 percent.

The poll was conducted between last Friday and Tuesday, days after former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suspended his campaign, effectively making Romney the presumptive nominee to take on the president in the fall. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remain in the race but face Romney's all-but-insurmountable lead in delegates and fundraising ahead of the Republican convention this summer in Tampa, Fla.

One of the benefits of Rick Santorum’s exodus – and there are several – is that it has given the former Massachusetts governor some welcomed momentum. Last month, only 30 percent of Republican primary votes wanted Mitt Romney to be the nominee. Today, however, 54 percent say they'd like to see him face off against President Obama in the general election. This is a significant jump in a relatively short period of time, and seems to prove that GOP voters are indeed coalescing around the presumptive Republican nominee.

Even so, it’s painfully evident Mitt Romney is struggling to win over a plurality of conservatives:

Still, many Republicans expressed lukewarm feelings toward Romney, with 40 percent of primary voters having reservations about him compared with 33 percent saying they supported him "enthusiastically." In January, the last time a CBS News/New York Times survey asked primary voters about Romney, 28 percent said they supported him enthusiastically and 38 percent had reservations.

Among Republicans with reservations of Romney are primary voters who identified themselves as white evangelicals, conservatives and supporters of the tea party movement. Half of white evangelicals told pollsters that they had reservations about Romney over the 27 percent who supported him enthusiastically. Romney received enthusiastic support from more than a third (36 percent) of conservatives and tea party backers; however, 41 percent have reservations about him.

Remember – as Guy wrote in his post yesterday – it’s still April. At this point, these numbers are essentially meaningless and won’t matter until the general election campaign picks up in September. Still, if anything, the latest CBS/NYT poll reminds us just how close (and bitterly contested) this race will be.