Even as Mitt Romney moves firmly into the lead in the GOP presidential nomination race, the improving economy is lifting President Obama ahead of Romney, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Head to head, Obama now leads Romney 51% to 45% among registered voters—and 54% to 43% against Newt Gingrich—with poll respondents saying they preferred Obama when it comes to protecting the middle class, handling international affairs, and dealing with terrorism. Romney leads with handling the federal budget and the economy. The two are statistically tied on job creation and dealing with taxes.
The president remains polarizing, however, with 49% saying he deserves a second term and 49% saying he does not. But Obama is way ahead of Romney on the question of understanding the economic problems of the US, 52% to 37%. Among independents, disapproval of Obama's performance leads approval by just 50% to 47%, although that's a big improvement from the 34% approval Obama had last fall, and a 10-point boost in just one month. (Read more Washington Post ABC poll stories.)