Romney still close to Obama, Santorum 5 points back, poll finds

Posted March 28, 2012, at 8:19 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Months into a bruising primary campaign, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is still neck and neck with President Barack Obama in a hypothetical general election matchup, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

Obama leads Romney 46-44 percent, suggesting a country that remains closely divided between the major parties, unwilling to rally to the Democratic incumbent and refusing to cast aside the front-runner for the Republican nomination after a dark hour of attacks and sniping inside his party.

Rick Santorum, the other major GOP candidate, remains close to Obama as well. The poll finds the president leading him 48-43 percent in a possible fall matchup.

A key reason they’re both close: Each edges the president among independent voters by 1 point. Another: The president, while enjoying an uptick of support on his handling of the economy and foreign affairs, nevertheless has the overall job approval of fewer than half of American voters at 48 percent, with 47 percent disapproving and 5 percent unsure. He fares a tad better when voters were asked whether they have favorable or unfavorable impressions of him: Fifty percent are favorable, 46 percent unfavorable and 3 percent unsure.

“We’ve come through a very divisive primary season, but the presidential matchups between Obama and Romney are pretty much where we were when this started,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.

“That’s driven by where Obama is. The president’s approval is defining the landscape.”

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