Mitt Romney also enjoys a slim lead over Obama in the daily polling for the first time since December of last year. Rasmussen's survey shows the former Massachusetts Governor with a 45-43 lead over the President. Rick Santorum, Romney's main rival in Tuesday’s Michigan and Arizona contests, has the opposite result, with a 45-43 percent lead for Obama over the former Pennsylvania Senator. Results have fluctuated in recent months, with Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former candidates Rick Perry and Herman Cain each having pulled ahead of Obama at various times. Only Romney has held the lead twice.
The Rasmussen report shows a virtual tie in Tuesday's Michigan primary, with Romney clinging to a 38-36 percent lead. The primary is considered a "must win" for Romney, a Michigan native and the son of the late George Romney, a former Michigan Governor who was himself a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. The February 26 polling of 750 Michigan voters likely to vote in the Republican primary showed candidates Gingrich and Paul far behind, with 11 percent choosing Gingrich and 10 percent for Paul. A Public Policy Polling report, released on the eve of Tuesday's Arizona primary, shows Romney pulling away from Santorum in the Grand Canyon State with a 43 to 26 percent lead. The same poll shows Gingrich at 18 percent, with 11 percent for Paul.
Despite some signs of economic recovery in February's Bureau of Labor Statistics report and a slim majority believing the nation is winning the War on Terror, Obama's approval rating dropped to its lowest point in more than a month, according to the Rasmussen survey, with 26 percent saying they "strongly approve" of the President’s job performance and 42 percent saying they "strongly disapprove." Obama fares better among less certain voters, with the overall numbers showing 45 percent of voters at least "somewhat approve "of his performance, though a majority (53 percent) at least "somewhat" disapprove. The 51 percent who believe America is winning the War on Terror is the highest percentage since last May's killing of Osama bin Laden, Rasmussen reports.
Romney, frequently identified as the frontrunner in the GOP nominating contest, has shared top billing with Santorum since the former Pennsylvania Senator emerged triumphant in three states — Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri — on February 7. But Gingrich, winner of the South Carolina primary, and Paul remain in the race and in the debates. Despite his 10 percent showing in Rasmussen’s Michigan poll, Paul drew large crowds and a rousing welcome in appearances in the Great Lakes State over the past weekend.
"Hundreds of people lined up for hours to hear the maverick U.S. representative from Texas, and some were turned away,” the Detroit News said Monday in reporting on a rally at the Pinnacle Center in the Grand Rapids suburb of Hudsonville, where the candidate's nearly hour-long speech was punctuated with chants of "Ron Paul!" and “End the Fed!" Paul began his Michigan tour on Saturday before a packed house of cheering supporters at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, where students lined the sidewalks long before the event as they waited to see the 76-year-old candidate who typically draws the largest, most enthusiastic crowds from among college students.
Yet much of the national media continues to regard Paul as the man who isn't there. On the Fox News "O'Reilly Factor" last Thursday, host Bill O'Reilly took exception when professor of politics Larry Saboto of the University of Virginia offered his observation that Romney had won the previous night's debate "by default."
"What does that mean, 'by default'?" O'Reilly asked. "All three of them were there." O'Reilly is presumably capable of counting past three, though not, apparently, when Ron Paul is part of a foursome.