Poll: Obama has edge; enthusiasm favors Romney before final debate

GOP voters more energized

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with supporters after speaking about the choice facing women in the upcoming election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at a campaign event at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Barack Obama shakes hands with supporters after speaking about the choice facing women in the upcoming election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at a campaign event at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to the crowd as fireworks go off during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to the crowd as fireworks go off during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane at Palm Beach International Airport, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane at Palm Beach International Airport, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • President Barack Obama arrives to speak about choice facing women in the election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, during a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)President Barack Obama arrives to speak about choice facing women in the election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, during a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, talks with foreign policy adviser Dan Senor, left, and his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., before boarding his campaign plane at Daytona International Airport, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, talks with foreign policy adviser Dan Senor, left, and his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., before boarding his campaign plane at Daytona International Airport, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • President Barack Obama responds to the crowd after speaking about choice facing women in the election during a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)President Barack Obama responds to the crowd after speaking about choice facing women in the election during a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and his vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to supporters as they walk on stage for the Romney Ryan Victory Rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and his vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to supporters as they walk on stage for the Romney Ryan Victory Rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  • President Barack Obama speaks about choice facing women in the election during a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)President Barack Obama speaks about choice facing women in the election during a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about the choice facing women in the upcoming election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about the choice facing women in the upcoming election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, rear left, watches vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speak during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, rear left, watches vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speak during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • President Barack Obama speaks about the choice facing women in the upcoming election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Barack Obama speaks about the choice facing women in the upcoming election, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, at a campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, speaks as vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., watches on during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, speaks as vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., watches on during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • President Barack Obama is surrounded by Secret Service agents as he greets women who were on the riser behind him, after he spoke about choice facing women in the election during a campaign event at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)President Barack Obama is surrounded by Secret Service agents as he greets women who were on the riser behind him, after he spoke about choice facing women in the election during a campaign event at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and his vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to supporters after arriving on stage during the Romney Ryan Victory Rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. 3(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and his vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to supporters after arriving on stage during the Romney Ryan Victory Rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. 3(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  • Supporters of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., take photos from a balcony during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Supporters of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., take photos from a balcony during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to the crowd during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wave to the crowd during a campaign rally on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Mitt Romney’s first debate bounce has evaporated and President Obama once again has taken a slim lead in The Washington Times/Zogby Poll released Sunday night — though the survey showed Mr. Romney’s backers are far more energized about him than the president’s backers are about their candidate.

Mr. Obama leads 49.7 percent to 47.3 percent over Mr. Romney, the Republican nominee, with 3 percent undecided.

Just as striking, however, is that Mr. Obama’s air of inevitability is slipping, with 49 percent saying they expect him to win re-election — the first time that number has dropped below 50 since August. Another 38 percent say Mr. Romney will win. That 11-point gap is down from 22 points two weeks ago and down from 27 points in late September.

Mr. Romney’s backers are far more enthusiastic: 71 percent say they are backing him because he is the best candidate in the race. Among the president’s supporters, 56 percent say he has earned re-election. The rest say they are backing Mr. Obama because he is a Democrat or because he is the “lesser of two evils.”

“This is a mixed bag,” said John Zogby, the pollster who conducted the survey. “The president has joined the American public in terms of anxiety and uncertainty over the next 21/2 weeks. No one knows, including him, whether he’s going to keep this job or not.”

Adding Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and other third-party candidates into the mix doesn’t change the race much. Mr. Johnson collects 3 percent of the vote, and others get less — and Mr. Obama still leads Mr. Romney by 2 percentage points.

Mr. Obama was seen as the winner of last week’s second presidential debate, 42 percent to 28 percent, over Mr. Romney, according to the 80 percent of likely voters who watched at least part of it. But the debate didn’t move the needle much — about 6 percent said it swayed them toward Mr. Obama, and 7 percent said they moved toward Mr. Romney.

The third and final debate will be held Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., and will focus on foreign policy.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama took the weekend off from the campaign trail to practice. The president headed to Camp David, and Mr. Romney staked out space in Delray Beach, just north of Boca Raton, where he found time to officiate the coin toss for a beachfront football game between some of his staffers and a few reporters covering the campaign.

Walking back from the game, Mr. Romney declined to answer a reporter’s question about whether he would be willing to hold one-on-one talks with Iran’s leaders — something a New York Times report this weekend suggested Mr. Obama is ready to do. The White House issued a statement denying the report.

“I thought you were talking about one-on-one talks with the president. I was about to answer,” the candidate said.

A terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month is sure to come up in Monday’s debate.

In last week’s debate, Mr. Romney accused Mr. Obama of not spotting the terrorist roots of the assault quickly enough — but voters, by a 44 percent to 40 percent margin, sided with Mr. Obama, who said he mentioned terrorism in his first speech after the Sept. 11 attack.

Still, 29 percent of voters blame the White House for mishandling the situation. Another 16 percent blame the State Department, 5 percent blame the Pentagon and 3 percent blame Congress. A full 30 percent said nobody was to blame and that the attacks weren’t mishandled, while the rest weren’t sure where to place blame.

Voters were split on two other major issues from last week’s debate.

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