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Obama leads Romney in new poll

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama has opened a significant lead over Mitt Romney in a Bloomberg National Poll that reflects the presumed Republican nominee's weaknesses more than the president's strengths.

Obama leads Romney, 53 percent to 40 percent, among likely voters, even as the public gives him low marks on handling the economy and the deficit, and six in 10 say the nation is headed down the wrong track, according to the poll conducted June 15-18.

Its findings are at odds with other recent national surveys that have found the two candidates tied or shown a slight advantage for Obama or Romney.

The survey shows Romney has yet to repair the damage done to his image during the Republican primary. Thirty-nine percent of Americans view him favorably, about the same as when he announced his presidential candidacy last June, while 48 percent see him unfavorably -- a 17-percentage point jump during a nomination fight dominated by attacks ads.

A majority of likely voters, 55 percent, view him as more out of touch with average Americans.

Taken together, the results suggest an unsettled political environment for both Obama and Romney five months from the November election, with voters choosing for now to stick with a president they say is flawed rather than backing a challenger they regard as undefined and disconnected.

"You can see in these data how important turnout will be," says J. Ann Selzer of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., who directed the poll. "Those most enthusiastic about the election are more supportive of Romney, but Obama's voters are more locked into their candidate than Romney's. Building resolve to vote and making the vote stick is job one."

The presidential race is roughly tied among the most enthusiastic voters, 49 percent of whom back Romney compared with 48 percent for Obama. Still, Romney inspires far less enthusiasm even among his supporters than does Obama, with 35 percent of Romney backers saying their support for him is "very strong," compared with 51 percent of Obama backers who say so.

The poll of 1,002 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the full sample. Questions asked of the 734 likely voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

About a third of likely voters rate Romney best at understanding their problems and struggles, and dealing with world leaders, while Obama draws majorities on both. And just 34 percent of respondents prefer Romney to Obama in appearing regularly on their TV and computer screens for the next four years; the president is the pick of 54 percent. Obama's favorability ratings are the reverse of Romney's, with 55 percent of Americans viewing the president positively, while 42 percent don't.

In a bad sign for Obama, a smaller plurality, 48 percent, of likely voters say he would be best at getting the economy going, while 43 percent say Romney would do better.