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WaPo-ABC tracking poll: High marks for President Obama on Hurricane Sandy response

President Obama gets sky-high marks for his response to Hurricane Sandy, which cut a brutal path along the country’s East Coast on Monday, according to the latest release of the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.

Nearly eight in 10 likely voters say the president has done an “excellent” or “good” job dealing with what’s been labeled a “super storm.” Almost as many give positive reviews to the federal government’s response generally. Even two-thirds of those who support Republican Mitt Romney in next week’s presidential election say Obama is doing well in this area.

The results for the hurricane response question are from interviews Tuesday evening, one of the four “waves” of interviews in the current release from the Post-ABC tracking poll. The one-night margin of sampling error is plus or minus six percentage points. As was the case Tuesday, responses in the Northeast across a range of demographic and political variables were on par with those throughout the tracking poll, which started Oct. 18.

Averaging across the most recent four waves, the presidential contest itself is back to a tie, with Obama and Romney each supported by 49 percent of likely voters.

Likely voters’ also remain evenly divided in their assessments of Obama’s overall job performance: 50 percent approve of the way he is handling the presidency; 49 percent disapprove. The stability of these numbers -- and of the presidential contest -- make it unlikely that high ratings on handling the storm damage will move the needle on either front, but 70 percent of those who give Obama negative marks generally give him positive marks on the hurricane.

Obama’s middling job approval numbers hamper his reelection prospects. Among voters who say they are focusing their vote on his first-term performance, 58 percent back Romney, and 41 percent support the president. By contrast, the vote is reversed among those who say they’re voting more based on what he would do in a second term: among these voters, it is 58 percent for Obama and 40 percent for Romney.

The hurricane situation provided the president with a “commander-in-chief moment,” and a challenge to both candidates on the campaign the trail. When it comes to his response to the storm, Romney gets more positive than negative reviews, but a sizable 35 percent of likely voters responded that they had “no opinion” on the matter.

Elsewhere in the tracking poll, fully 18 percent of all likely voters say they’ve already cast their presidential ballot, rising to 23 percent among those in eight key swing states: Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Early voting rates are lowest in the Northeast, where just 3 percent of all voters say they have already voted. The low early-voting rate in the region adds to the pressure on election officials to sort through storm-related problems with voting locations and equipment.

Nationwide, female likely voters split 52 to 46 percent in the president’s favor, while men divide 53 to 45 percent the other way. Political independents break 51 percent for Romney and 46 for Obama.

The Post-ABC tracking poll is a series of consecutive one-night “waves” of interviews reported as a rolling, multi-night average. The new results are for interviews conducted Oct. 27-30, among a random sample of 1,288 likely voters. Margin of sampling error for the full  four-night average is plus or minus three percentage points.