WASHINGTON - The race for the White House is tightening up with President Obama and Mitt Romney in a dead heat on the question of who could best fix the economy, a new poll showed Tuesday. The incumbent and his all-but-certain challenger are tied at 47pc apiece on handling the economy, according to the survey by ABC News and The Washington Post, although if the election were held today Obama would enjoy a narrow 49-46pc overall advantage. The economy was by far the top concern among voters, with more than half of Americans saying it will be the deciding issue for them in Nov, pushing other concerns like health care and taxes down to single digits.
And while eight in 10 respondents rated the economy as negative, some 54 percent of Americans were more optimistic than anxious about it in the coming years.
Voters were split on issues like job creation, with Obama nipping his rival 46-45 percent, but the president enjoys some deep advantages, too.
He fares better in terms of having the right character to be president (52-39 percent) and the number of "very enthusiastic" Obama supporters is roughly double those for Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman and investor.
But Obama faces some troubling trends, notably his shrinking advantage among women.
He enjoyed a 19-point lead among female voters last month - at a time when a perceived "war on women" had dominated the political headlines - but that advantage has shrunk to 51-44 percent, about the average among women over the past year.
The poll also showed some similarities between Obama and an earlier president.
In the critical measure of where voters stand financially now compared to when Obama took office in early 2009, 30 percent said they are worse off, while just 16 percent said they're better off.
The figures are similar to those of president George H.W. Bush when he sought reelection - and lost - in 1992 amid economic doldrums.
Some 47 percent of respondents approved of Obama's job performance while 49 percent disapprove, about the same as George W. Bush (47-50) at the same time in 2004 when he was seeking - and won - reelection.
The poll reflects a narrowing in the race as it has become more clear that Romney will be the Republican Party's nominee.
Nearly six months out from the election, Romney has turned his full attention to a matchup against Obama, and all signs point to a fierce and predominantly negative campaign season ahead.