THE RACE: Polls show presidential race tightening

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By TOM RAUM, Associated Press

With about five months to go, the presidential race is tightening, polls show, with voters nearly evenly divided between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his likely Republican challenger.

Obama and Romney are locked in a dead heat over handling the economy, the top concern of voters, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. They are tied at 47 percent.

Overall, 49 percent said they back Obama for re-election and 46 percent preferred Romney, a statistically insignificant difference.

Other recent national polls show a similarly close margin.

Earlier polls generally showed the former Massachusetts governor holding a slight lead over Obama on economic issues and Obama slightly ahead overall.

But the tightening follows an aggressive attack on Romney's business credentials by the Obama campaign, including ads painting him as a job-destroying corporate raider at Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he co-founded.

Romney called the attacks "character assassination." But Obama defended the tactic on Monday as legitimate and suggested Romney's background was a poor qualification for the White House since being president involves more than "maximizing profits."

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, meanwhile, suggested that Obama's endorsement of gay marriage two weeks ago was a political wash, with 17 percent saying it makes them more likely to vote for him and 20 percent saying it makes them more likely to vote for Romney, who opposes gay marriage. Sixty two percent said it makes no difference in their vote.

With U.S. unemployment still hovering above 8 percent and economic uncertainty widespread, both candidates have stepped up their emphasis on jobs and the economy.

Neither Romney, fund-raising Tuesday in New York, nor Obama had public appearances scheduled.

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Associated Press News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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