Romney, Obama neck-and-neck in latest polls

Two national polls released yesterday show Romney emerging from his gaffes unscathed. He is even with Obama at 46 percent in the Rasmussen Reports daily presidential tracker, and trails Obama by just 2 percent in a Gallup poll.

Romney took heat for crassly categorizing half the country as people who don’t pay taxes and see themselves as “victims” entitled to government subsidies, but more than anything, most Americans were shocked to learn that as many as 47 percent pay no income tax, Landy suggested.“The country is very divided almost evenly,” said Marc Landy ofBoston College. “Many of us were distressed by Romney’s comments about the 47 percent, but the overwhelming amount of those were already voting for Obama.”

“There’s a legitimate outrage that seems to far outdistance the sense of disgust at how he expressed it,” Landy said.

But Romney’s stumbling in the surveys that matter — individual battleground state polls, said Republican strategist Rob Gray.

Real Clear Politics poll averages show Romney trailing Obama by 4.5 percent in Virginia, 4.1 percent in Ohio and 1.5 percent in Florida.

“He has to win two out of those three states to have any chance,” Gray said. “National polling has been OK for him, but the state polling is still very concerning.”

But Romney could turn things around this week if he can capitalize on the awkward position Obama soon will find himself in. The president will speak to the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow. He is expected to denounce the violent Islamic mob assaults on American consulates but also the film that mocks the Islamic prophet Muhammad — a move likely to anger free speech and civil liberties advocates who argue the filmmaker is protected under the First Amendment, while Republicans have accused the Obama administration of effectively apologizing to mobs and terrorists. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also is due to address the U.N. in New York, which could draw uncomfortable attention to the administration’s issues with Israelover how and when to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Middle East is not just a powder keg literally. It’s also a political powder keg,” Gray said. “Obama has to be concerned that the unrest continues there. It diminishes his commander in chief credentials the more the upheaval continues.”

But even with an Obama gaffe, Romney still has an uphill battle.

“Romney’s problem is that the Republicans are still really divided over him. … A lot of them have already written off 2012, and are looking ahead to 2016,” said Tom Whalen of Boston University. “The 47 percent comment was the final nail in this coffin.”

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