Republican White House hopeful, Mitt Romney
A widening gender gap, modest economic gains, an edge on key issues and broad advantages in personal popularity are boosting Barack Obama's re-election prospects. Yet Mitt Romney, moving to close the deal in his own party, holds opportunities of his own for the road ahead, reports ABC News.
Obama has returned to a single-digit lead vs. Romney in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 51-44 percent among registered voters, after a virtual dead heat last month. That includes Obama's largest margin to date among women, 57-38 percent. He trails by 8 points among men.
Underscoring that gender gap, Obama leads Romney by 19 points among all adults in trust to handle "women's issues," his single largest advantage among a dozen issues tested in this poll, which was produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. That includes a 10-point lead for Obama on women's issues among men, growing to 27 points among women.
After an extended period of debate and political positioning on a range of issues of concern to women, there's also a sharp gender gap in the president's overall job approval rating - 13 points higher among women than men, another record in ABC/Post polls. Obama's 50 percent approval rating overall rests on positive views among 56 percent of women vs. 43 percent of men.
Other factors are at play. Obama leads Romney by significant margins in trust to handle six key issues in all, ranging from international affairs to protecting the middle class to handling social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Romney clearly leads on just one, handling the deficit. Obama also leads on a range of personal attributes, including by a vast 38 points in being seen as the more friendly and likable of the two and by 26 points as "more inspiring."
Among issues, the economy, and the broader sentiment it inspires, are key to the election. Today the fewest number of Americans in more than a year say the country is on the wrong track, nearly half say their local economy is improving and a sense that jobs are "very difficult" to find has eased by 14 percentage points from last summer.
In addition, approval of Obama's handling of the economy is up by 6 points from last month, "strong" disapproval has eased by 8 points from its record high and he leads Romney by 12 points as better understanding average Americans' economic problems.
Yet there are opportunities for Romney. He now leads Rick Santorum by 20 percentage points among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents as the preferred candidate for the GOP nomination, up from a scant 2 points last month. Mopping up within his party gives Romney his first chance to turn his full fire on the incumbent.
While "wrong track" sentiment is down by 13 points since last fall, a still broad 64 percent of Americans say the country's off course. More, 76 percent, say that as far as they're concerned the economy still is in a recession. In perhaps Romney's strongest line of attack, 54 percent still disapprove of Obama's performance on the economy - 5 points lower than last month but a continuous majority since July 2010.