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

  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to the crowd as he leaves a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, Va.,Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to the crowd as he leaves a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, Va.,Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at a campaign rally at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at a campaign rally at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney arrives on stage to campaign at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, Va.,Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney arrives on stage to campaign at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, Va.,Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • President Barack Obama gestures during a speech at campaign rally at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)President Barack Obama gestures during a speech at campaign rally at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, Colo., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, Va., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, Va., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Former President Bill Clinton speaks before a crowd of supporters for the Obama-Biden ticket at an appearance at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/The Blade, Amy E. Voigt) Former President Bill Clinton speaks before a crowd of supporters for the Obama-Biden ticket at an appearance at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/The Blade, Amy E. Voigt)
  • Ann Romney speaks at a rally in support of her husband, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, at the Strongsville Recreation Center in Strongsville, Ohio, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)Ann Romney speaks at a rally in support of her husband, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, at the Strongsville Recreation Center in Strongsville, Ohio, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
  • First lady Michelle Obama gestures as she speaks to supporters at a campaign event at the James L. Knight Center, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)First lady Michelle Obama gestures as she speaks to supporters at a campaign event at the James L. Knight Center, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
  • Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan looks up at his wife Janna as he mans the phones at the Team Nevada headquarters in Las Vegas, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jerry Henkel, Pool)Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan looks up at his wife Janna as he mans the phones at the Team Nevada headquarters in Las Vegas, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jerry Henkel, Pool)
  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at The Opera House at Fort Museum, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at The Opera House at Fort Museum, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
  • Bill McCoy of Virginia Beach, Va., wears a "Defeat Obama" sticker on his back as he listens to Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak during a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Bill McCoy of Virginia Beach, Va., wears a "Defeat Obama" sticker on his back as he listens to Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak during a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • A supporter of President Barack Obama cheers before listening to first lady Michelle Obama speak at the James L. Knight Center, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)A supporter of President Barack Obama cheers before listening to first lady Michelle Obama speak at the James L. Knight Center, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds up 5 month-old Charlotte McGee from Maryland after speaking at the campaign event at Meadow Farm Park, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Doswell, Va. (AP Photo/ Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer, Pool)Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds up 5 month-old Charlotte McGee from Maryland after speaking at the campaign event at Meadow Farm Park, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Doswell, Va. (AP Photo/ Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer, Pool)
  • President Barack Obama lifts a baby as he greets people in the audience after speaking at a campaign event, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, at the Cheyenne Sports Complex in Las Vegas, before heading to Denver. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Barack Obama lifts a baby as he greets people in the audience after speaking at a campaign event, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, at the Cheyenne Sports Complex in Las Vegas, before heading to Denver. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • A supporter holds up a sign before Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the stage for a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)A supporter holds up a sign before Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the stage for a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks past senior adviser Ed Gillespie, left, Virginia senate candidate George Allen, second right, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, right, as they leave a campaign event at Meadow Event Park, in Doswell, Va., for another rally in Virginia Beach, Va., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks past senior adviser Ed Gillespie, left, Virginia senate candidate George Allen, second right, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, right, as they leave a campaign event at Meadow Event Park, in Doswell, Va., for another rally in Virginia Beach, Va., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Actress and Obama supporter Eva Longoria, center, talks with Obama Senior campaign adviser David Axelrod, left, and White House senior adviser David Plouffe, right, during a campaign event at Cheyenne Sports Complex in Las Vegas, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Actress and Obama supporter Eva Longoria, center, talks with Obama Senior campaign adviser David Axelrod, left, and White House senior adviser David Plouffe, right, during a campaign event at Cheyenne Sports Complex in Las Vegas, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., poses for a photograph with a supporter during a campaign event, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Reno, Nev.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., poses for a photograph with a supporter during a campaign event, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at The Opera House at Fort Museum, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at The Opera House at Fort Museum, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
  • President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the University of Colorado - Boulder, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the University of Colorado - Boulder, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney smiles as he jokingly holds onto the bag of campaign strategist Stuart Stevens as they board their plane in Norfolk, Va.,Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, as he travels to campaign events in Milwaukee, Wis. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney smiles as he jokingly holds onto the bag of campaign strategist Stuart Stevens as they board their plane in Norfolk, Va.,Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, as he travels to campaign events in Milwaukee, Wis. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • President Barack Obama is embraced by supporters during a campaign event at Cheyenne Sports Complex in Las Vegas, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)President Barack Obama is embraced by supporters during a campaign event at Cheyenne Sports Complex in Las Vegas, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • Supporters wave American flags and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves as he arrives in his campaign bus for a campaign event at Meadow Event Park Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Doswell, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)Supporters wave American flags and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves as he arrives in his campaign bus for a campaign event at Meadow Event Park Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Doswell, Va. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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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.

"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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