A new poll finds that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in a dead heat with President Barack Obama in the presidential sweepstakes. The poll is the first national survey on the presidential race since former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump announced they would not seek the GOP nomination.
The poll by Boston’s Suffolk University found Romney in a statistical tie in a head-to-head matchup with President Barack Obama among voters of all parties.
Of those surveyed, 46 percent said they back Obama; 43 percent, Romney. That falls within the polls 3 percent margin of error, meaning Romney’s support could be as high as 46 percent and Obama’s as low as 43 percent.
Romney also leads the GOP pack of presidential contenders by mostly double digits.
“With Huckabee and Trump out of the race, the whole dynamic has changed,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston’s Suffolk University. “Romney is the clear front-runner now; that’s a position he’ll have to be prepared to defend over the coming months.”
The results are good news from Romney who received largely negative reviews for his much anticipated defense of the health care plan he proposed in 2006 while governor of Massachusetts.
Romney travelled to the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center last week to discuss the plan, dubbed by detractors as Romneycare, which has been widely cited as the model for Obama’s signature health care law.
Instead of walking away from the plan as many conservatives had hoped, Romney embraced it, explaining it was “right for the people of my state.”
The poll also has more good news for the GOP field. Some 48 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance when asked if Obama deserved to be reelected, while 43 percent said he deserved reelection.
However, it’s too soon to put the champagne on ice. The poll found that 46 percent of likely voters said they expect Barack Obama will be reelected in 2012 while only 37 percent said the GOP would win the White House.
Among likely GOP primary voter, the poll found that Romney garnered 20 percent of support, followed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with 12, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 9, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 7 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., 5 percent.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., businessman Herman Cain and Mitch Daniels all garnered 4 percent of the support. That was followed by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum with 3 percent. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said they were undecided. Three others got less than 1 percent.
It’s unclear how much of the polling was done after Gingrich’s disastrous rollout of his campaign.
Gingrich has spent much of the week apologizing for comments made Sunday on “Meet the Press” where he called House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare as “right-wing social engineering.” He now says his words were “inaccurate and unfortunate.”
Nonetheless, he has been hammered by conservatives for the comments, which were closely followed by revelations in Politico that he once owed the Tiffany and Co. jewelry store between a quarter and a half million dollars.
The poll surveyed 1,070 likely voters from May 10 to 17, 2011, using live telephone interviews.
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