US President Barack Obama is pulling away from Republican rival Mitt Romney in polls in what might be a turning point in the US presidential campaign, but volatility in the Middle East is allowing Republicans to cast the Democrat as weak on foreign policy.
A Reuters/Ipsos online poll on Thursday gave the Democrat a 7 percentage point lead, 48 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters. Survey aggregator Real Clear Politics’ average of national polls gives Obama a 3.3 point advantage, while Gallup’s seven-day tracking poll of registered voters has Obama leading by 6 points, one more than a Fox News survey of likely voters.
After months of being neck-and-for the Nov. 6 election, recent data has stirred speculation that Obama may have reached a breakaway moment helped by the Democrats’ convention last week.
“This election is far from over, and we’re not inclined to make a final call until the first debate on Oct. 3, but this seems clear: the election is slipping away from Romney,” Greg Valliere of Potomac Research Group said.
However, in a reminder of how easily campaigns can shift, Republicans began building a strong argument against Obama for failing to stop the rise of Islamists in Egypt and Libya.
It is unclear whether Obama’s lead is a residue of positive feeling from the convention, or for specific reasons like voter concern at the Republican plans for Medicare.
Yet Obama seems to be doing something right to be able to stay ahead despite high unemployment, underscored by poor jobless figures last week. The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Obama with a slight lead of 38 percent over 35 percent on which candidate has a better plan on jobs.
In key states, the numbers looked grim for Romney too. An EPIC-MRA poll showed Obama up 10 points in Michigan, Romney’s birthplace, while a poll on Tuesday showed Obama up 4 points in Ohio.
Obama now has one eye on the Middle East as Republicans accuse him of weakness over protests at US diplomatic missions over a film many Muslims consider blasphemous.
The region has a history of upsetting US presidential races as in 1980 when the Iran hostage crisis played a part in the defeat of former US president Jimmy Carter.
Although the current crisis is not nearly as serious, US warships headed toward Libya after the US ambassador there was killed.
Obama vowed that those responsible for killing the ambassador in Libya and three other Americans would be brought to justice.
Romney meanwhile recalibrated his argument against Obama on Thursday, stopping short of repeating charges that Obama is apologizing to the US’ enemies.
“As we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we’re at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events, and a strong America is essential to shape events,” he told supporters at a rally in Washington.