Romney gains traction with GOP, loses to Obama: poll


WASHINGTON — Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has improved his standing among fellow Republicans, including the most conservative segment of the party, a new opinion poll has found. But the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, released late Sunday, showed he would still lose to President Barack Obama, if the elections were held today. The former Massachusetts governor can count on the support of 38 percent of likely Republican primary voters, up 10 percentage points since January, the poll showed.

His closest rival, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, had 32-percent support with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Representative Ron Paul were tied for third at 13 percent, according to the poll. Support for Gingrich has plunged by 24 percentage points since January. Romney also appeared to be gaining support among the segments of his party that so far have been reluctant to endorse him. His backing among Tea-Party supporters jumped to 35 percent from 21 percent in January, the polls showed. His support among Republicans who call themselves “very conservative” nearly doubled to reach 32 percent. But the poll also found that nearly 40 percent of Americans viewed Romney negatively, compared to only 28 percent who viewed him positively, a gap of 12 percentage points, according to the survey. By comparison, former senator Bob Dole’s negative perception gap in March of 1996 was only four percentage points, The Wall Street Journal reminded. Dole won the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, but was squarely beaten by Bill Clinton in November of that year. If the vote were held today, Romney would lose to Obama 44 percent to 50 percent, the poll found. Obama would beat Gingrich 54 percent to 37 percent and Santorum 53 percent to 39 percent. An Obama-Paul race would be a little closer, with Obama winning 50 percent to 42 percent.