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GOP optimism rises on poll showing Romney ahead of Obama


A new national poll released Monday prompted wagging tongues in Washington for its result, which showed Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama on the heels of last week's presidential debate. 

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found Romney leading Obama, 49 to 45 percent, among likely voters. That sort of result would mark a remarkable reversal in fortunes for Romney, who's trailed Obama in most national polls to date. 

The Pew poll, if nothing else, offers confirmation of Romney's strong debate performance last week against Obama. Sixty-six percent of registered voters said in the poll that they thought Romney had done a better job in the debates, compared with 20 percent who said the same of the president. 

Two new polls, which each present a different story about the Obama and Romney's popularity, indicate that there is greater enthusiasm among likely Republican voters than Democratic voters. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

The shift in Pew's poll — which showed an eight point advantage for Obama in mid-September — seems attributable mostly to a heavy Republican sample. Surging party identification can be an indicator of enthusiasm, which certainly spiked among Republicans in the aftermath of last week's debate. 

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(Incidentally, many conservatives had previously expressed open skepticism of previous polls showing Obama ahead of Romney, because those polls had a slightly more Democratic sample. Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary to George W. Bush, tweeted that while the poll shows obvious movement toward Romney, the results expressed Monday by Pew are "tempting" but unlikely.)

The Pew poll was conducted Oct. 4-7, which includes both the aftermath of the debate, and also includes the announcement last Friday that the jobless rate had fallen to 7.8 percent, news which is seen as helpful to Obama. 

Additional national and state-level polls set for release later this week could end up painting a better picture, though, of the state of the Obama-Romney horserace. Those polls might provide a better indication of whether Romney's post-debate bump is strong enough to be sustained. 

The Pew poll has a margin of error of 3.4 percent for its sample of likely voters, and a 3.3 percent margin of error for its sample of registered voters.