LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Rising enthusiasm and declining anxiety mark an energy boost among Mitt Romney's supporters since he prevailed in the first presidential debate. But a persistent sense he'd favor the wealthy, combined with easing discontent with the nation's direction, provide a retort for President Obama, raising the stakes for their second showdown this week.
Romney now numerically leads Obama in strong enthusiasm and trails him in anxiety among potential voters, both firsts this season. At the same time, the number of registered voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll who say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track has eased to its lowest in nearly three years, 56 percent — a level incumbents can survive.
Following the best jobs report in 44 months, 52 percent say Obama deserves at least some credit for lower joblessness. And gains have been felt locally: Thirty-two percent now call it "very difficult" to find jobs in their area, down from 49 percent in July 2011.
These competing pulls make for a continued close race, with preferences narrowly divided and essentially unchanged. Likely voters split by 49-46 percent between Obama and Romney if the election were today, compared with 49-47 percent in the last ABC/Post poll, just before the first debate. The three-point difference between the candidates is within the survey's margin of error.
In La Crosse, most of the voters we interviewed outside of the Post Office said they had already made up their mind on who they would vote for.
"I'm quite tired of listening to the commercials, as many people are and I don't need to listen to them because I already know who I will vote for," Jan Klimke said.
"Yeah, the lesser of two evils, sure," Dan Guzman said.
Kim Holmes said there wasn't anything that could be said during Tuesday night's debates that would change his mind on which candidate he was going to vote for.
"Well there's always a chance of an October bombshell but I doubt it I think I've pretty well made up my mind," Holmes said.
Guzman said he could change his mind if either candidate showed support for union workers.
But, for people like Patricia Pitt and Walter Rigden, who said they are still undecided, think tomorrow's debate could help make up their mind.
"Over the whole healthcare and what they say they would do for the country pretty much," Pitt said.
"I would like to know who has a plan to make the national debt go down," Rigden said.
Notably, Obama's support among likely voters has ranged, tightly, between 47 percent and 49 percent in four ABC/Post polls since late August; Romney's has been between 46 percent and 49 percent in that same time. Neither has broken free, nor exceeded the 50 percent line. If that holds, it becomes a get-out-the-vote election — an area in which Obama currently has an advantage, but Romney's proving more effective than was John McCain in 2008.
The poll finds likely voters in nine battleground states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin) dividing by 51-46 percent, Obama-Romney (not a significant difference). In the states rated as strong for Obama it's 56-39 percent; in those seen as strong for Romney, he leads by an almost identical 55-39 percent.
Article from ABC's Gary Langer.
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