The president and the former Massachusetts governor start their head-to-head contest essentially even among registered voters — Obama 47%, Romney 45% — in the dozen battleground states likely to determine the election's outcome. That's closer than the lead of 9 percentage points for Obama in the Swing States survey in late March.But the poll also finds a reversal in what has been a key GOP asset in the five previous battleground surveys taken since last fall: an edge in enthusiasm among voters. For the first time, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting — a shift from a 14-percentage-point GOP advantage at the end of last year to an 11-point deficit now.That drop is driven by Republicans who describe themselves as moderate or liberal, about a third of the party, even though the candidate widely viewed as the most moderate in the GOP primary field is poised to be nominated. Just 7% of moderate and liberal Republicans now say they are extremely enthusiastic, down from 24% in January and compared with 34% of conservative Republicans who feel that way.
A 25-point flip in the enthusiasm gap in roughly five months in the swing states that will determine this election? That's devastating news for the GOP and Romney. There's more:
Obama has some advantages.By a yawning 27 points, those surveyed describe Obama as more likable than Romney — not a frivolous asset. The candidate viewed as more likable has prevailed in every election since 1980. Even among Romney's supporters, one in four call Obama more likable.By 10 points, voters say Obama is more likely to care about the needs of people like themselves. By 7 points, they call Obama a stronger and more decisive leader."No president can get everything done in four years," says LaTonya McCants, 44, a nursing assistant from Cleveland and an enthusiastic Obama backer. "He did make some good changes, and I feel he should get another four years" to finish the job.Times may be tough, but she believes Obama is on her side. "He's for everybody," McCants says. Who does Romney care about? "Probably the business people," she says.
You want to know where that enthusiasm gap is coming from? Romney should look in a mirror.