ByÂ Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor
If electability trumps ideology in the Republican nominating contest â€“ and in the end it almost always does (Barry GoldwaterÂ in 1964 was an exception) â€“ then the 2012 presidential race inevitably will boil down to Romney vs. Obama.
Thatâ€™s the main message in a series of recent polls. FormerÂ MassachusettsÂ governorÂ Mitt Romneyconsistently comes close to beating Obama, running neck-and-neck with the President â€“ way better than most of the otherÂ GOPÂ candidates, althoughÂ Ron Paulcomes close in some national surveys as well.
AÂ CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday has Romney a whisker ahead of Obama (48-47 percent), well within the surveyâ€™s margin of error.
Another aspect of this poll shows a tightening of the race as measured by voter â€œenthusiasm.â€
Enthusiasm about voting now stands at 54 percent among registered Republicans, CNN reports, down ten points from last October. Meanwhile, enthusiasm among registeredÂ DemocratsÂ has risen six points, and now stands at 49 percent.
“In a race that tight, turnout is likely to determine the outcome, and the Democrats have begun to close the ‘enthusiasm gap’ that damaged their prospects so badly in the 2010 midterms,” writesCNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Each candidate has distinctive strengths, says Holland:
“On the economy â€“ issue number one to most Americans â€“ Romney has a clear advantage. Fifty-three percent say the former Massachusetts governor can get the economy moving; only 40 percent say that aboutÂ President Barack Obama. But the numbers are reversed when voters are asked whether the candidates are in touch with ordinary Americans. Fifty-three percent say that Obama is in touch; only four in ten feel that way about Romney.”
In another poll out Monday â€“ this one byÂ Fox NewsÂ â€“ Obama is ahead of Romney by a single percentage point (46-45), another statistical tie.
â€œBehind those numbers is a striking contrast,â€ writes Dana Blanton at foxnews.com. â€œSeventy-four percent of Obama backers say they are voting â€˜forâ€™ him rather than â€˜against Romneyâ€™ (21 percent). Yet for Romney, his support is mainly anti-Obama. Fifty-eight percent of Romney voters say they would be voting â€˜against Obamaâ€™ rather than â€˜for Romneyâ€™ (33 percent).â€
But thereâ€™s a warning for the Obama campaign as well. Independents favor Romney 43-38 percent.
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