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Partisans line up behind their candidates as election nears

Partisans are falling in line as the election draws closer, with Democrats expressing more positive views of President Obama and Republicans more “strongly favorable” toward Mitt Romney than at any point in the campaign, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

For Obama, the uptick in favorability -- 55 percent of registered voters hold positive impressions of him versus 50 percent in late August -- may be welcome news amid the release of new national polls showing Romney gaining ground following last week’s debate. Obama continues to edge out Romney on this score, but the GOP challenger is now at a new high-point in terms of his own popularity.

(A new Pew poll has Obama and Romney about even in terms of popularity, an area that, coupled with likability, has been a persistent weakness for the former Massachusetts governor, and remains one in the Post-ABC poll.)

All interviews for this four-day survey were conducted after last Wednesday’s debate in Denver, which was widely seen as a big win for Romney. Romney did better in the poll in the two days immediately after the debate, with the president making up ground in the third and fourth days.

Among Republicans, 69 percent expressed intensely positive views of their standard-bearer on Thursday and Friday, slipping to 54 percent on Saturday and Sunday. For Obama, the pattern was reversed, with 55 percent of Democrats holding strongly favorable view in the debate’s immediate aftermath, rising to 77 percent in the later interviewing.

Put together, however, the data point to the stiff partisanship that typifies the campaign. Fully 93 percent of voters who identify as Democrats now have favorable views of Obama, a record high back to 2007. About two-thirds -- 68 percent -- of Democrats have “strongly favorable” views, tying the high from this cycle but down from this time four years ago.

Romney’s Republican backers are also behind him as never before in the campaign: 62 percent of voters affiliated with the GOP say they have “strongly favorable” views of their party’s nominee, 16 percentage points higher than before the convention in Tampa. (Romney’s overall favorability among Republicans stands at 87 percent.)

Among independents, Obama is still treading water here: 49 percent of independent voters have positive views; 50 percent negative ones. Views of Romney continue to tilt negative -- 44 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable.

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