The competitiveness of the race with just two weeks remaining was underscored by the new Post-ABC News survey showing a statistical tie and by signs that Romney is now running even with Obama in the swing states.
Behind those numbers is a sizable gender gap — as large as it has been in Post-ABC national polling during this campaign. Female voters break 56 to 42 percent for the president; men go 54 to 42 percent for Romney.
White voters side with Romney by a 15-point margin (56 to 41 percent), while non-whites break heavily for the president, 78 to 19 percent. Among African Americans, the margin is overwhelming: 94 to 2 percent.
The seesawing battle for voters now has Obama with the edge on the enthusiasm front: 64 percent of Obama’s backers say they are “very enthusiastic” about his candidacy, higher than the 58 percent of Romney’s who are that engaged behind his run. Still, Obama’s popularity trails his 2008 levels.
The new poll also showed the two candidates at parity in a basic test of popularity: The number of voters with favorable impressions of Romney is on par with the number with positive views of Obama (50 to 52 percent). However, the president maintains the edge in “strongly favorable” ratings.
Obama has a campaign-high 11-point edge over Romney on handling taxes, a 12-point lead on Medicare and a 13-point advantage on “women’s issues.” He has a seven-point edge when it comes to understanding the economic problems people are having and is still widely viewed as doing more to help the middle class than the wealthy, the opposite of how voters see Romney.
In advance of Monday’s debate, the poll showed Romney now rivaling Obama when it comes to dealing with international affairs and terrorism. Romney also runs about evenly with the president as voters’ pick for who is the better commander in chief.
Obama spent the weekend at Camp David preparing for the final debate, arriving in Florida on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, he will begin a cross-country blitz that will take him to almost every important battleground state, a reflection both of the limited time left before Election Day and the tightening polls, both nationally and in the battlegrounds.
Billed by the campaign as a two-day, non-stop “America Forward tour,’’ Obama is scheduled to barnstorm through Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. He will also make a detour Wednesday to California, which is considered safely in his column, for an appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Romney prepared extensively for the foreign policy debate, coming off the campaign trail on Saturday for three days of prep sessions at a waterfront hotel in nearby Delray Beach, Fla. His top political and policy advisers were with him, as was Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who played Obama in the mock debates and has become an increasingly influential adviser to the nominee.
On Tuesday, Romney heads west to reunite with Ryan, staging joint rallies in Nevada and Colorado, and from there, Romney campaigns in Iowa and all-important Ohio. Advisers said Romney would start delivering his closing argument to voters this week, and he is considering making a major speech on debt and government spending in the coming days.
Jerry Markon and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.