The Washington Times - April 2, 2012, 11:02AM

A new USA/Gallup poll carries a number of potential warning signs for Mitt Romney’s potential one-on-one match-up with President Obama in the general election, showing him losing to the incumbent among registered voters nationwide and in a dozen key swing states.

Voter enthusiasm for the Romney campaign, meanwhile, has also fallen off since the nomination contests kicked into high gear three months ago.

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“The momentum in the 2012 U.S. presidential election appears to be going in Obama’s favor. He now enjoys his best positioning against likely Republican nominee Romney nationally and in key swing states to this point in the campaign,” Jeffrey M. Jones, of Gallup, writes in the poll analysis. “Obama’s improved standing may result from Americans’ improving confidence in the economy and satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States.

“Still,” Mr. Jones wrote, “the election remains competitive, in that Obama’s advantage nationally is not a statistically significant lead. As Republicans try to halt Obama’s momentum, one potential hurdle for the party — and for Romney supporters in particular — is their declining enthusiasm about voting this year.”

Mr. Romney has 568 delegates, nearly double his closest rival Rick Santorum, in the race for the 1,144 delegates needed to sew up the nomination before the Republican convention in Tampa this summer. And polls suggest he will add to that lead when voters go to the polls Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin, where he is campaigning Monday with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who endorsed him over the weekend.

But there have been several signs along the way that Romney has struggled to generate enthusiasm from the party’s base and that his path to victory will have more to do with the party’s desire to oust Mr. Obama.

The USA Today/ Gallup poll shows Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney 49 percent to 45 percent nationwide, which marks the largest lead he has held over the ex-governor in Gallup polls.

The Democrat enjoys a lead among independent voters, and holds a 51-42 percent lead over Mr. Romney in 12 key swing states. “This is the first time in five measurements that Obama has held an advantage in those states,” according to Mr. Jones.

Meanwhile, voters enthusiasm about voting in the election is down across the board, dropping from 52 percent to 47 percent.

“The decline is especially apparent among Romney voters, whose enthusiasm has fallen 13 percentage points from January, and now is on par with Obama voters’ enthusiasm,” Mr. Jones said.