US President Barack Obama has a growing lead in polls and an easier path to the White House than challenger Mitt Romney, but the Republican is still within striking distance with eight weeks to go before the election.
Obama expanded his edge over Romney after their back-to-back nominating conventions and has leads in eight of the top nine battleground states, giving him an advantage, but not a lock on the race.
While bumps in the polls after a convention often do not last, Romney is running out of chances to recast the race and win over a small group of undecided voters. Three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate next month are the last major campaign events before the Nov. 6 election.
“Clearly, heading into the final 60 days of the campaign the president has opened up an edge and that includes in the swing states, too,” pollster Peter Brown of Quinnipiac University said.
However, “Romney just needs to move the needle a few points and the race would be right back to even,” he added.
Tracking polls by Gallup and Rasmussen gave Obama a 5-point edge on Monday. A CNN/ORC poll on Monday gave Obama a 6-point lead among likely voters, up from a tie before the Democratic convention.
The CNN poll found only 3 percent of likely voters were still undecided or backing another candidate aside from Obama or Romney.
The Romney camp played down the significance of Obama’s gains, releasing a memo from pollster Neil Newhouse describing it as “a sugar high” and predicting economic realities would bring the race back to the tight margins that have characterized it for months.
“The basic structure of the race has not changed significantly,” Newhouse said.
“The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself,” he said.
Romney, former head of a private equity firm, has argued his business experience makes him uniquely qualified to boost job growth and turn around a stumbling economy suffering from 8.1 percent unemployment.
However, he has made no headway against Obama, whose campaign spent the summer hammering Romney in advertisements as an out-of-touch millionaire whose business experience mostly involved raiding companies for cash and leaving workers jobless.
Friday’s weaker than expected jobs report, released the morning after Obama concluded his convention, did not keep Obama from cracking 50 percent in the CNN poll and in his job approval rating recorded by Gallup.
Romney has also battled a likeability gap with Obama and much of his convention was spent trying to paint a softer side of the former Massachusetts governor for voters who have not warmed to him.
The CNN poll found the number of likely voters who viewed Romney favorably dropped from 50 percent before the two conventions to 48 percent. Those who viewed Obama favorably rose from 52 percent before the conventions to 57 percent.
“I think Mitt Romney’s challenge is likeability,” Arizona Senator John McCain said in Italy.
“People are not only going to be asking themselves, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ but they are going to be asking another question and that is, ‘Am I going to be better off four years from now?’” he said. “They have not yet been sold that Mitt Romney will make sure that happens.”