A nationwide NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted during the same time frame shows Obama-Biden leading Romney-Ryan by 48 percent to 44 percent. A majority of voters (54 percent) said Romney’s choice of the conservative Wisconsin congressman does not affect their vote either way, while 23 percent said it make them less likely to vote for the GOP ticket and 22 percent said it make them more likely.
A new USC Annenberg/Los Angeles Times poll, conducted Aug. 13-19 and released Thursday, has Obama leading Romney 48 percent to 45 percent among all registered voters surveyed, and 48 percent to 46 percent among those likely to vote, the newspaper reported.
The polls largely preceded the furor that erupted this week over antiabortion comments by Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.), a Republican running for a Democratic-held Senate seat. Akin ignited the controversy when he told a St. Louis television station Sunday that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
A state poll conducted Wednesday by Rasmussen Reports showed that support for Akin plunged after his remarks, with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) now leading him by 10 points, 48 percent to 38 percent. Before the uproar, Akin had led the Democratic incumbent by an average of five points.
Romney and other GOP leaders urged Akin to drop out of the race for the good of the party, and Ryan called him personally to make that appeal. The uproar drew attention to Ryan’s socially conservative views; he has shared Akin’s opposition to abortion exceptions for rape and incest, but he muted those beliefs this week in deference to Romney’s support for such exceptions.
The issue threatened to sidetrack what Romney hoped would be a Republican message focused intensely on the economy at the four-day convention beginning Monday in Tampa. “It’s a huge distraction,” Saul Anuzis, a Republican National Committee member from Michigan and a top Romney backer, told the Associated Press. “We should be talking about the economy, and here we are consumed by these side issues.”
The convention also faced a potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to gain hurricane strength over the Caribbean by Friday and could hit Florida as an estimated 70,000 convention delegates, journalists and protesters converge on Tampa.