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Is Romney ‘inevitable?’ Here’s how he lines up against Obama

New polls show Mitt Romney consistently comes close to beating President Obama, running neck-and-neck with the President – way better than most of the other GOP candidates.

By Staff writer / January 16, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during the Faith & Freedom Coalition's presidential kick-off at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in South Carolina Monday, January 16.

Chris Keane/Reuters

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If electability trumps ideology in the Republican nominating contest – and in the end it almost always does (Barry Goldwater in 1964 was an exception) – then the 2012 presidential race inevitably will boil down to Romney vs. Obama.

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That’s the main message in a series of recent polls. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney consistently comes close to beating Obama, running neck-and-neck with the President – way better than most of the other GOP candidates, although Ron Paul comes close in some national surveys as well.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday has Romney a whisker ahead of Obama (48-47 percent), well within the survey’s margin of error.

Another aspect of this poll shows a tightening of the race as measured by voter “enthusiasm.”

Enthusiasm about voting now stands at 54 percent among registered Republicans, CNN reports, down ten points from last October. Meanwhile, enthusiasm among registered Democrats has risen six points, and now stands at 49 percent.

"In a race that tight, turnout is likely to determine the outcome, and the Democrats have begun to close the 'enthusiasm gap' that damaged their prospects so badly in the 2010 midterms," writes CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Each candidate has distinctive strengths, says Holland:

"On the economy – issue number one to most Americans – Romney has a clear advantage. Fifty-three percent say the former Massachusetts governor can get the economy moving; only 40 percent say that about President Barack Obama. But the numbers are reversed when voters are asked whether the candidates are in touch with ordinary Americans. Fifty-three percent say that Obama is in touch; only four in ten feel that way about Romney."

In another poll out Monday – this one by Fox News – Obama is ahead of Romney by a single percentage point (46-45), another statistical tie.

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