Obama Has Eight-point Lead Over Romney in Pew Poll

Lead is the best September advantage for a U.S. presidential candidate since Bill Clinton's 1996 race.

Seven weeks ahead of the presidential elections, U.S. Democratic candidate Barack Obama's lead over his Republican rival Mitt Romney has grown to eight points, according to a Pew Research Center poll released on Wednesday. A number of other national polls also showed Obama has gained an advantage, backed by the same trend in polls conducted in swing states.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll on Tuesday revealed Obama's five-point lead over Romney (50 percent- 45 percent), with an 11-point lead on being "better prepared" than Romney to lead the country. But the real bounty came from the Pew poll, which shows Obama crossing the 50-percent support line with 51 percent - as opposed to Romney's 43 percent, an eight -point gap.

This is the best September advantage for candidate since Bill Clinton's 1996 race, political analysts note.

On foreign policy, Obama leads 53 percent to 38 percent, but on the question of who will improve the job market, the race is still close: 46 percent to 45 percent, and an advantage to Romney - 46 percent to 43 percent - on the question of who will do a better job on reducing the budget deficit.

The poll shows Obama enjoys an advantage in the perception that he handles foreign policy issues and international crises better than his opponent. Specifically, on the Middle East, 50 percent think Obama will deal with its challenges better, while 39 percent favor Romney.

The incumbent enjoys a strong lead among women (56 percent -37 percent), minorities (92 percent of black voters, 69 percent of latino voters) and Americans under the age of 30 (59 percent to 33 percent), according to the poll; however  extra efforts should be madeto ensure they actually make it to the polling station, as the new poll shows a drop in voters' interest in the elections.

Some 48 percent of voters under the age of 30 have given "a lot of thought" to the upcoming election, as opposed to 65 percent at this point four years ago. (This is the mood the Obama campaign is trying to fight by dispatching young stars such as Natalie Portman, who appeared today in a campaign event in Cincinnati). There is no change in engagement among the African-American voters.

But the current fight is over the6 percent of independent voters - and the two are in a close race vying for support of this group: 44 percent Obama, 42 percent Romney. 

Romney, however, leads Obama among white independent voters, 48 percent to 40 percent, and holds a 50 percent-43 percent lead among whites. The Republican candidate will get his chance to try to shift the current trend in three presidential debates on October 3, October 16 and October 22.

The poll was conducted after both parties' national conventions - but before the latest self-inflicted wound, with Mother Jones magazine's publication of video excerpts from the Republican candidate's May fundraiser, that have sparked widespread controversy. In one video, Romney said 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes, feel like victims entitled to government aid, and that he can't convince them to support him.

In another clip, he expressed skepticism over prospects of reaching peace in the Middle East, saying that the Palestinians are not interested in peace, remarks which enraged Palestinian officials.

The poll conducted by Gallup following the leaking of the video clips this week showed that 36 percent of potential voters are less inclined to vote for Romney, for 43 percent it made no difference, and 20 percent said it made them more supportive of Romney.

Polls consistently show Obama's advantage in key battleground states - according to a CNN poll, Obama leads 52 percent  - 44 percent in Michigan, where Romney was born and his father was a governor.  A USA Today/Gallup poll gave Obama a two-point advantage - 48 percent to 46 percent in 12 swing states.

According to the new Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey, Obama has a four-point lead in Virginia, one-point lead in Colorado, and a six-point lead in Wisconsin - home state of Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan.

"Wisconsin is a leaning Democratic state.  Obviously Ryan’s presence on the ticket has given the Republicans hopes that they can make it a competitive state.  It’s competitive, but the President still has a lead there and a little bit better lead than he had or bigger lead than he had three weeks ago," explained Peter Brow, the Assistant Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"After the Democratic Convention, the president clearly got a boost in the national polls.  There were six or seven percent leads in some places. In campaigns, the state of the race is a moving target, and it’s hard to make sweeping generalities.  Here’s the generality I can make.  If the election were today, Barack Obama would win the election.  But it’s not today; it’s 45 days from today.  And so he’s ahead, not by a lot, but he’s ahead."

Clearly, both candidates are not about to stop campaigning at this point: Obama - because his biggest enemy might become his supporters' complacency, and Romney - because he might hope Obama's lead is a temporary bump.

On Thursday, both candidates will hold campaign events in Florida: Romney - three, Obama - two.

Next week, both candidates will be in New York. President Obama will deliver his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. It will probably be no less interesting to compare the addresses of the two candidates at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, which converges annually on the margins of the UNGA and recognized by many as a much more pleasant alternative to the UNGA speeches.