Though the Republican primary race trudges along, pollsters and everyone not named Rick Santorum have begun to take a closer look at the probable general election matchup between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. A new Washington Post–ABC News poll shows that voters give Obama huge advantages on personality traits and on understanding people's economic problems. But Obama remains hampered by discontent with the pace of the nation's economic recovery and the high cost of gas. Fifty-one percent of registered voters would support Obama today compared with forty-four percent for Romney, according the poll.
New York's Frank Rich recently explored the GOP's problem with women, a factor evident in this poll: Respondents gave a 53-to-34 advantage to Obama in "addressing women's issues." Obama is also up on Romney among female voters by nineteen points. Voters may remember that a month ago, Romney matter-of-factly said he would get rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Obama has double-digit advantages on "seems more friendly and likable" by a 64-26 percent margin. The incumbent also posted double-digit margins in "handing of international affairs" and "dealing with health-care policy," even as the Affordable Care Act weighs in the balance.
The candidates stack up much more closely on economic questions according to this poll, with 47-to-43 percent favoring Romney on "handling the economy." Obama has a marginal advantage on "creating jobs."
This poll is 100 percent very early and well in advance of party conventions, but nevertheless, a barometer of how the chips are stacked at present.