Mitt Romney has pulled into a statistical tie with President Obama but continues to struggle with female voters, according to a pair of newly released polls.
A new Politico/George Washington University poll found Romney leading Obama among likely voters by 48 percent to 47 percent, a narrow edge that is within the poll's margin of error. A USA Today/Gallup survey of voters in 12 contested states gave Obama a 47 percent to 45 percent advantage, a result that effectively has the same implication: at this point, the race is a tossup.
The dead heat suggests that Romney has benefited from the Republican party aligning behind his candidacy after rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich dropped out of the presidential race. A closer reading of the two polls shows areas of strength and weakness for both candidates.
A gender gap persists, with Obama enjoying an advantage among women while Romney is favored by men. Both polls affirmed the gap, although they gauged it differently: the Politico/George Washington Poll found Romney leading men by seven points and Obama leading women by seven points, while the USA Today/Gallup Poll found Obama ahead by 12 points among women and men supporting Romney by eight points.
The finding highlights the Obama campaign's efforts to appeal to female voters, most recently with an online feature entitled the Life of Julia that tracks how various Democratic policies would support an imaginary woman throughout her life. The two parties have also sparred over the Obama health care law's mandate that insurers cover contraception and over the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.
The USA Today/Gallup Poll also suggested an enthusiasm gap, with 55 percent of Obama supporters saying they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, compared to 46 percent of Romney backers. But the Politico/George Washington poll found Romney with a ten-point lead, 48 percent to 38 percent, among independent voters.
Different issues also produced widely varying responses, with a substantial majority of likely voters saying Obama was stronger on taxes, foreign policy, standing up for the middle class and sharing their values. But on the economy, the single issue likely to dominate the campaign, voters chose Romney by 48 percent to 45 percent.