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Poll Shows Obama vs. Romney Is Pitched Battle Over Economy

White House Easter Egg Roll; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama helps out during the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

A Washington Post-ABC poll out Tuesday finds that President Obama leads Mitt Romney in a general election matchup, 51 percent to 44 percent.

The survey offers plenty of fodder on personal issues, including an enormous gender gap and that Mr. Obama “has a better than 2-to-1 advantage as the more friendly and likable of the two,” but it’s yet another indication this battle will be waged over the economy.

As Jon Cohen and Dan Balz write in their story:

[O]n the two most pressing issues of the campaign — the economy and jobs — the contest is considerably more competitive, with about as many trusting Romney on the issues as Obama. Despite positive economic indicators, Americans remain deeply pessimistic about the overall direction of the country and largely consider the economy still mired in a recession. The Romney campaign is hoping to take advantage by making the contest about Obama’s performance on these key concerns.

Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 50 percent, but he draws negative marks on how he has dealt with the economy and the recent increase in gasoline prices. Nearly half of all Americans say his handling of the economy is a major reason to oppose his reelection; far fewer see it as a big reason to support his bid.

Romney holds a double-digit lead over Obama on just one issue tested in the poll: who would better deal with the federal budget deficit.

See the full poll here via the Post’s nifty graphic.

Worth noting, the poll was conducted of 1,103 adults, not registered voters.

The backdrop of the poll is a renewed push by the president and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill over the so-called Buffett Rule to increase taxes on the richest Americans.

Mr. Obama plans a speech Tuesday in Florida on the issue, and Vice President Joe Biden will join in during a town hall Thursday in New Hampshire. Senate Democrats have said they will hold multiple votes on the issue to use it as a political wedge.

On a conference call Monday, the president’s aides said Romney is only out to help the wealthy, prompting Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho to say that Mr. Obama “is the first president in history to openly campaign for re-election on a platform of higher taxes.”

The Obama campaign is adding fuel to the fire Tuesday morning by stepping up calls for Romney to release multiple years of tax returns. A campaign aide suggested the GOP front-runner is “playing hide and go seek with his tax returns.”

“Mitt Romney opposes the Buffett Rule — he thinks millionaires and billionaires should keep paying lower tax rates than middle-class families. In fact, Romney himself isn’t paying his fair share — in 2010, Romney paid a tax rate of only 13.9 percent, well below the rate paid by many middle-class Americans,” the campaign said. As the Morning Line reported last week, you can expect to hear this theme play out repeatedly in the coming months.


On Monday morning, the Romney campaign announced it would pull ads attacking Santorum from the Pennsylvania airwaves in “deference” to the family, as Santorum’s 3-year-old Bella Santorum was hospitalized.

The New York Times had a surprising tidbit in a story about the issue Tuesday:

“Jim Roddey, chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, who has endorsed Mr. Romney, said the campaign probably would conduct polling to see whether Bella’s hospitalization remained a sensitive issue. But, he said, sympathy for Bella would probably not bring Mr. Santorum any new votes, nor would it deter the Romney camp from full-throated attacks on Mr. Santorum.”

The Santorum campaign announced after midnight that Bella had returned home from the hospital and that the former senator is scrapping his morning events to spend time with her.

Campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement: “Rick and Karen are happy to announce that their daughter Bella has been discharged from the hospital and returned home earlier Monday evening. The Santorum’s are truly overwhelmed by the prayers and support they’ve received — and wanted to attach a picture of their daughter Bella so everyone could see their precious gift from God. The campaign has cancelled its first two events of the day to allow Rick, Karen and Bella to settle in at home. To make up for the morning events, the campaign is adding a campaign stop in Gettysburg, PA at 2 pm and the remainder of the day’s public and private events will continue as originally planned.”

The sensitive family matter took some pressure off Santorum’s flagging campaign, which has been forced to defend against rumors he will drop out of the race to avoid a loss in his home state April 24.

The Times reports that the ad Romney pulled down “bluntly addressed Pennsylvania voters: ‘We fired him as senator. Why promote him to president?'”


Gwen Ifill talked with Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research about how the Trayvon Martin case in Florida has put increased scrutiny on state gun laws. The discussion took place just after special prosecutor Angela Corey announced there would be no grand jury and that she alone will make the decision about the circumstances. Laws similar to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” are on the books in more than two dozen states, the result of many years of work at the local level.

Webster noted that the National Rifle Association’s efforts have been three-fold: writing legislation, writing checks and lobbying. He also detailed the changes pushed over the last several years by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Watch the segment here or below.

In related news, Washington, D.C., Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton plans a Tuesday meeting of her Commission on Black Men and Boys in Washington to discuss “Lessons from the Life and Death of Trayvon Martin,” The Hill reports.

Roll Call’s Janie Lorber reports that the Gates Foundation on Monday became the latest organization to pull funding from ALEC.


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  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul released a new 30-second television ad running on cable in the Lone Star State. It knocks each of his GOP rivals. Watch it here or below.

  • The New York Times breaks down what Paul’s campaign accomplished this election season here, and here is Chris Cillizza’s take.
  • MoveOn.org releases a star-studded television ad to promote the “non-violent direction action” of the 99Spring.com effort. Watch it here or below.

  • “President Obama’s landmark health-care initiative, long touted as a means to control costs, will actually add more than $340 billion to the nation’s budget woes over the next decade, according to a new study by a Republican member of the board that oversees Medicare financing,” the Washington Post reports.
  • The Winning our Future super PAC backing Newt Gingrich emailed supporters this CBS story about how many people are still showing up to the former House speaker’s campaign events.
  • Mr. Obama’s job approval ratings were up in March.
  • Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico writes that “two of the five members of Romney’s recently announced Health Care Policy Advisory Group have a record of opposition to his Massachusetts health care reform plan.”
  • BuzzFeed rounds up photos of the president reading “Where the Wild Things Are” at the White House Easter Egg Roll. It’s not the first time he’s done this routine.



  • Politico reports that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., got involved in the primary against Illinois Rep. Don Manzullo for personal reason. The paper cites “more than a half-dozen Republican sources” who say that Manzullo “once said Cantor, a devout Jew, would not be ‘saved.’ The remark occurred several years ago, when Cantor was serving as chief deputy whip, the sources said. Cantor allies were put off by the comment, Republicans said.”
  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz learns that Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., is sending campaign mail to Democrats ahead of his tough GOP primary challenge.
  • The Tea Party Express releases stops and dates for its national bus tour, starting in Pennsylvania on April 27 and ending in Texas on May 7.
  • The Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game is set for June 28. All eyes are on the Democrats’ star pitcher Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.
  • Talking Points Memo reports on a gay marriage amendment sharing the May 8 Republican presidential primary ballot in North Carolina.
  • Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren raised almost $7 million for her bid to unseat Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in the first quarter.
  • Another General Services Administration official has been put on leave.
  • The NewsHour on Mike Wallace.

Politics desk assistant Ryan C. Brooks contributed to this report.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama is in Florida for a fundraiser at a home in Palm Beach Gardens, a speech in Boca Raton at 2:55 p.m., a fundraiser at a hotel in Hollywood at 6 p.m. and then a fundraiser at a home in Golden Beach at 8:05 p.m.
  • Mitt Romney holds an event in Wilmington, Del., at 5:55 p.m. and speaks to the local GOP in Mendenhall, Pa., at 7:30 p.m.
  • Rick Santorum holds an event in Gettysburg, Pa., at 2 p.m. and then speaks at an “American Heartland Conversation on Faith, Family, and American Values” in Lancaster, Pa., at 7:15 p.m.
  • Newt Gingrich holds an event at noon and a press conference at 1:45 p.m. in New Bern, N.C.
  • Ron Paul holds a town hall in College Station, Texas, at 8 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @suddinengel and @kpolantz.

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