President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a virtual tie in Florida, according to a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll that indicates the Democrats' convention buzz and the Republican's recent troubles haven't altered the race in this biggest of battleground states.
Obama is drawing 48 percent support to Romney's 47 percent among likely voters -- a lead well within the poll's 3.5 percent margin of error. Only 4 percent are undecided.
"Despite what some people have tried to claim, this race is still close in Florida," said Brad Coker, who conducted the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey. "It's very much a toss-up."
Obama has fought Romney to a standstill over who is more trustworthy when it comes to the economy. But 51 percent say they're not better off than they were four years ago, while 41 percent say they are.
The president is also up by 6 percentage points when it comes to foreign policy -- even after the attacks on a Middle East embassy and consulate that left four Americans dead.
But Romney has basically pulled even with Obama over managing Medicare, a traditional Democratic strength.
Obama is winning the Hispanic vote. But Democrats fret his margin might not be enough to counterbalance the white voters who favor Romney by double digits.
Obama, however, could have a crucial edge: the support of independent voters, who often decide elections in swing-state Florida. Independents back the president by 11 percentage points more than Romney. That's a six-point shift since the last Mason-Dixon poll in July.
"Obama seemed to pick up some independent voters. That's where Romney slipped a little bit," Coker said.
Each candidate has strong support from his respective party, although Romney has slightly more Republican backing compared to the percentage of Democrats favoring Obama.
The relatively stronger internal party support could prove pivotal for Romney. If the same proportion of Republicans, Democrats and independents cast ballots in 2012 compared to 2008 -- a high watermark for Democrats -- Romney could have the edge on Election Day, the poll indicates.
"It's a turnout game," Coker said.
Florida Democrats and the Obama campaign have registered about 200,000 new voters this election. Many are likely to vote for Obama. Registered active Florida Democratic voters now outnumber Republicans 44 percent to 39 percent, a 5-point margin mirrored exactly by this latest poll.
In interviews with poll respondents, neither candidate is really loved by his own supporters.
"I don't think Obama has any backbone," said Andrew Ianniello, 76, a Democrat from Punta Gorda. "Obama is a wimp. But Romney's an even bigger wimp when it comes to him trying to pacify the tea party and conservatives."
A third-party candidate, Libertarian Gary Johnson, isn't drawing much support at all. Johnson, outgunned by the major political parties, has 1 percent.
The neck-and-neck race and the dwindling pool of undecided voters heighten the importance of the presidential debates next month.
The Mason-Dixon poll of 800 likely Florida voters was conducted for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13 from Sept. 17 to 19.
The survey was taken just as Romney suffered the fallout of a leaked hidden video of the candidate making disparaging remarks about the 47 percent of taxpayers who pay no federal income tax.
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