- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2012

President Obama and Mitt Romney are deadlocked with each holding 49 percent support nationally as they head into Tuesday’s election, though Mr. Romney holds a lead on enthusiasm, according to this week’s The Washington Times/Zogby Poll of likely voters, released Thursday night.

Mr. Obama has more votes already in the bank: About a quarter of those surveyed said they’ve cast their ballots by absentee or early voting, and they broke 53 percent to 45 percent in favor of the president.

But Mr. Romney, the Republican nominee, leads when it comes to those who have yet to hit the polling booth but who said they are certain or very likely to make it on Tuesday — suggesting that his key to victory is persuading his backers to actually turn out next week.

When it comes to issues, the president leads when voters are asked about foreign affairs, national security, energy and immigration, but Mr. Romney has a lead when it comes to handling jobs and the economy, which have dominated this year’s election.

“It’s what brings it to a tie — the fact that he does better on the economy,” said John Zogby, The Times’ pollster, who said it reminded him of the 2004 race, when Democratic nominee John F. Kerry led President George W. Bush on every issue except for national security, where the incumbent held a commanding lead, which powered him to re-election.

The final piece of economic data will come Friday morning when the Labor Department releases the October jobs report, detailing the unemployment rate. Early indications showed a modest number of new jobs added last month, though whether that would lead to a lower unemployment rate is still in doubt.

Last month, the rate stood at 7.8 percent — the exact same level as when Mr. Obama took office.

Voters remain divided on whether they are better off now than they were four years ago, with 46 percent saying “yes” and 47 percent saying “no.” The partisan split, though, is staggering: 74 percent of Democrats said they are better off, while 81 percent of Republicans said they are not. Independents are split down the middle.

That divide underscores another conclusion from the latest polling: Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are seeing their base voters come home.

The president has a tremendous lead among black voters and garners support of 78 percent of Hispanics, which would put him ahead of his 2008 performance with that fast-growing voting bloc. White voters, though, are increasingly backing Mr. Romney, who now claims support of 60 percent of them.

The poll of 800 self-identified likely voters was taken Oct. 29 to 31. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Mr. Zogby said the hurricane that struck the Northeast did not likely affect the broad conclusions of the poll, which is in line with other surveys that show a very tight race.

Adding in third-party candidates does nothing to change the dynamic.

Libertarian Party nominee Gary E. Johnson gets 2 percent support and Green Party candidate Jill Stein collects 1 percent support, leaving Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney still tied at 48 percent to 48 percent.

Republicans point to the fact that Mr. Obama has struggled to hit the 50 percent support level.

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