Poll: Enthusiasm and economy favor Romney; Obama leads on immigration, foreign affairs

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“Obama isn’t even close to 50 percent of the vote. In fact, again, going back to Real Clear Politics, since the first debate, there have been 24 national surveys done since the first debate, and just one of them has shown Obama at 50 percent of the vote. That’s just one,” Neil Newhouse, the Romney campaign’s pollster, told reporters on Wednesday.

Democrats, though, argued that Mr. Obama has leads in more than enough battleground states to put together the Electoral College map he’ll need to win re-election.

“Let’s be clear: This is a race to 270 electoral votes. And we understand the map that we — or the several maps that we need to get there,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters.

The Times/Zogby poll has consistently showed a tight race nationally, with the exception of late September, when Mr. Obama notched a 9-point lead amid a very bad month for Mr. Romney.

But in October, Mr. Romney rebounded, benefiting from a powerful first debate performance.

By the end of the three presidential debates and one vice presidential faceoff, voters said the two sides tied overall.

Only about 15 percent of voters said the debates affected their voting decision, with Mr. Romney benefiting slightly — but other cues suggested Mr. Romney got more subtle boosts.

Chief among those was enthusiasm, which The Times/Zogby Poll measured by asking whether each candidate’s supporters were backing him because he was the best for the job, or because they opposed the other guy.

Back in May, when Mr. Romney had first sewn up the GOP’s nomination, 64 percent of Mr. Obama’s supporters said he was the best for the job, while just 48 percent of Mr. Romney’s backers thought the same of him.

Since then, however, Mr. Obama has slid to just 59 percent of his supporters who are backing him because he’s the best candidate. Meanwhile, 66 percent of Mr. Romney’s backers say he’s the right pick for the job — a stunning turnaround that signals an enthusiasm gap.

Voters do still rate Mr. Obama more trustworthy, and do have questions about Mr. Romney’s claim that he can cut income-tax rates by 20 percent across the board, boost military spending, and still balance the budget without raising other taxes on the middle class.

Nearly 48 percent of voters said Mr. Romney’s math doesn’t add up, while just 37 percent said it does. That 11-point gap is up from after the first debate, when voters were evenly split on whether Mr. Romney’s plan added up.

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