A new USA Today/Gallup poll of a dozen swing states shows President Obama clinging to a statistically insignificant 47 percent to 45 percent lead over Mitt Romney. Though there are some potentially troubling signs for the challenger -- Obama is viewed as much more likable and Democratic leaning voters are expressing more enthusiasm -- generally, there's a lot of good news for Romney at this stage in the race.
To start, swing state voters already give Romney the edge when it comes to the economy:
Among those surveyed, 60% say a President Romney would do a good or very good job handling the economy over the next four years; 52% say that of Obama. Even among the president's supporters, four in 10 predict Romney would do a good job. In a direct comparison, Romney edges Obama, 47%-44%, as the one who would do a better job.
Also, voters give Romney a slight 45 percent to 43 percent edge on the question of who can "manage the government effectively."
Generally, the biggest hurdle for anybody challenging a sitting president is to pass the threshold whereby Americans view the candidate as competent and presidential. This poll suggests that Romney has already crossed the threshold early on in the campaign.
Another good sign for Romney is that even though Obama is going to try and portray him as an extremist, Obama himself is viewed as further away from the ideological mainstream:
About a third of voters say Obama's political views and their own are about the same while a 54% majority say the president is more liberal than they are. Just one in 10 say he's more conservative.
About a third of voters say Romney's political views and their own are about the same, and he's seen as roughly in the middle of the political spectrum: About one in three call him more conservative than they are; about one in four call him more liberal.
It's worth keeping in mind that all of the states polled were states Obama won in 2008: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.