Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, is tied at 47 percent with President Barack Obama in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of likely voters released 16 days before the election.
In a nationwide survey conducted Oct. 17-20, Romney pulled even with the incumbent Democratic president for the first time this year, showing the race continuing to tighten as the Nov. 6 balloting approaches. The poll of 816 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
“This is going to be a very close race and we’ve said that consistently,” David Axelrod, senior political strategist for the Obama campaign, said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Axelrod said the Obama campaign believes the president remained ahead in battleground states.
Surveys taken during the past week have shown the former Massachusetts governor narrowing or eliminating Obama’s lead in most closely divided swing states. Romney picked up momentum after winning the first debate on Oct. 3 in Denver.
Romney has erased a five-point lead that Obama held in the same NBC/WSJ survey in mid-September, which had narrowed to a three-point advantage by late last month. Among the larger pool of 1,000 registered voters in the most recent survey, Obama is leads Romney 49 percent to 44 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The poll found Romney leads among men, 53 percent to 43 percent, and Obama leads among women, 51 percent to 43 percent. Romney’s support among men has grown in the past month while Obama’s advantage among women has fallen slightly, according to a summary of the poll from the Wall Street Journal.
The poll shows Romney leading among likely voters in Southern swing states and Obama ahead in Nevada, NBC correspondent Chuck Todd said on the Sunday morning talk show “Meet the Press.” The two are “essentially tied” among voters in the Midwest, a summary of the poll released today said.
Polls have shown that more people say the president won the second debate, which was held Oct. 16 in Hempstead, New York. According to a Gallup survey released Oct. 19, 51 percent of Americans who viewed the town-hall-style event said Obama won, while 38 percent favored Romney’s performance.
Voters in 11 states, including Iowa and Ohio, already have begun casting ballots. By week’s end, four of the nine most competitive states will have started early, in-person voting.
A separate poll this week of Iowa and Wisconsin, two of the nine states that strategists in both parties say will decide who wins the White House, showed that Obama was maintaining his lead over the Republican challenger. Obama led Romney 51 percent to 43 percent in Iowa and 51 percent to 45 percent in Wisconsin, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey released Oct. 18.
Obama and Romney are scheduled to meet for their third and final debate tomorrow at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. The last face-off between the men is to focus on foreign policy.
Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, defended data showing Romney gaining ground on “Fox News Sunday.”
“People come at you from either side if they don’t like your results,” he said.
Gallup’s tracking poll, a seven-day average, shows 51 percent of likely voters backing Romney nationally and 45 percent backing Obama, Newport said on Fox.
Newport declined to make a prediction, saying “a week ago we had it even and now we have Romney up.” That change “suggests it could move the other way over the next week or two,” he said.
“Things move in elections, Newport said. ‘‘That’s why they are still spending hundreds of millions of dollars on both sides to try to move voters.’’
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