President Barack Obama continues to lead Republican rival Mitt Romney in a new national poll taken after Romney announced his vice presidential pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey has Obama with 48 percent support from registered voters compared with Romney's 44 percent. A similar poll in July had Obama leading by six points.
As has been the case throughout the general election, more people prefer Romney's ideas for the economy over Obama's, 44 percent to 38 percent. This has been the top issue for voters throughout the election, yet Romney's strength has been undermined by his inability to convince voters he cares about average people or win them over with his personality. Obama is seen as more "likable" than Romney, 58 percent to 23 percent. And 52 percent say Obama "cares more about average people" versus 30 percent who think Romney does.
Highlighting the closeness of the election, Obama and Romney are about even among suburban, midwestern, and so-called swing voters, according to the NBC/WSJ poll. But Obama does lead by 10 points with women voters, a margin that could grow larger as Democrats attempt to link controversial remarks about rape and abortion made by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin to the Republican brand up and down the ticket.
The survey also shed some light on how voters feel about the Medicare debate that has dominated the campaigns over the last week. Romney and Ryan have pounded Obama for "raiding" the senior healthcare entitlement program of $716 billion, but also embraced their own program that would drastically reshape the program for future generations. Seniors prefer Romney over Obama, 49 percent to 41 percent, but most voters prefer Obama on issues affecting seniors, 46 percent to 34 percent.
Half of all voters said they have no opinion of the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan, while 30 percent said it was a bad idea and 15 percent said it was a good one.
Next week's Republican convention in Tampa offers Romney the chance--perhaps his final one--to boost his general image and his likability. His wife, Ann, will deliver a prime-time speech aimed at humanizing her husband, and his family will likely have a major presence. His running mate Ryan, more at ease on the stump and personally popular than Romney, will also likely spend the majority of his convention speech talking up his partner at the top of the ticket.
The poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters across the country and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.