On the eve of the first presidential debate, President Barack Obama leads or is at parity with Mitt Romney on virtually every major issue and attribute in what remains a competitive general election, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The new survey also highlights an emerging dynamic in the race: the disparity between the state of the race nationally and in battleground states, where campaigning and advertising by the two candidates has been most intense and where the election will be decided.
Nationally, the race is unmoved from earlier this month, with 49 percent of likely voters saying they would vote for Obama if the election were held today and 47 percent saying they would vote for Romney. Among all registered voters, Obama is up by a slim five percentage points, nearly identical to his margin in a poll two weeks ago.
But 52 percent of likely voters across swing states side with Obama and 41 percent with Romney in the new national poll, paralleling Obama's advantages in recent Washington Post polls in Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
Obama and Romney have focused outsized efforts in swing states: About a third of all voters in these states say they've heard from each side. Outreach makes a particularly big difference among less-reliable young voters, who proved critical in electing Obama four years ago.
Romney enters Wednesday's debate in Denver under acute pressure to turn around a campaign that has lost ground in states — particularly Florida and Ohio — widely seen as critical to his prospects.
"He's had a tough couple of weeks, let's be honest," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said of his party's presidential contender in a Sunday interview on CBS's "Face the Nation." "He's going to come in Wednesday night, he's going to lay out his vision for America . . . and this whole race is going to turn upside down come Thursday morning."