Romney Leads GOP Field, in Dead Heat With Obama, Poll Finds

Mitt Romney has an approval rating above that of other Republican presidential candidates and is in a dead heat with President Barack Obama, according to a new poll.

The Washington Post-ABC poll released Tuesday also showed Americans were concerned about rising gasoline prices, falling home values and increasing unemployment, which have evaporated the popularity Obama enjoyed following the killing of Osama bin Laden just a month ago.

In general, six out of 10 Americans interviewed gave Obama negative marks for the handling of the economy and deficit. Almost two-thirds of political independents also disapproved of Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

Around 45 percent of respondents said they trusted congressional Republicans to do a better job on the economy, while 42 percent said they would still go with Obama.

Romney, who announced his bid for the 2012 candidacy last week, is focusing on employment and economy in his campaign. The poll found the former Massachusetts governor and Obama tied at 47 percent among all Americans. Among registered voters, Romney was 49 percent versus 46 percent ahead of Obama.

In comparison, figures reveal trouble for former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, whose East Coast bus tour of historical sites renewed speculation of a possible run for the White House. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they “definitely would not” choose Palin as the president. More than six in 10 Americans doubt that Palin is qualified for the job.

Palin also faces challenges from her own party members, of which 42 percent said they had opted out of supporting her candidacy. However, Palin stands alongside Romney as the only potential GOP presidential candidate reaching double digits in approval among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. While Romney was approved by 21 percent, Palin’s rating stood at 17 percent. In contrast, the next contender in line, former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, has only 8 percent in support.

Overall, Romney is most likely to give a tough competition to Obama in the presidential elections. Palin trails the current president by 17 percent – the poorest rating among six possible Republican candidates tested. Also, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. was behind by 10 points, while former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty trailed at 11 points. Rounding up the group, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R- Minn.) was 13 points behind Obama.

The poll was conducted over the telephone June 2-5 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, with a margin sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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