Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are still neck-and-neck in national polls.
The latest survey from McClatchy-Marist has Obama ahead of Romney 46-44% in a hypothetical matchup. Rick Santorum is also within striking distance of Obama, with the president ahead 48-43%.
The poll also finds that Mitt Romney would surge ahead of Rick Santorum for the GOP nomination if Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul were to drop out.
A key reason they're both close: Each edges the president among independent voters by 1 point. Another: The president, while enjoying an uptick of support on his handling of the economy and foreign affairs, nevertheless has the overall job approval of fewer than half of American voters at 48 percent, with 47 percent disapproving and 5 percent unsure. He fares a tad better when voters were asked whether they have favorable or unfavorable impressions of him: Fifty percent are favorable, 46 percent unfavorable and 3 percent unsure.
Overall, voters give the president improving marks this spring on some key issues. On the economy, 46 percent approve of his performance and 51 percent disapprove, his best showing since June 2010. On foreign policy, 50 percent approve — the highest since June 2009 — while 45 percent disapprove.
On another key barometer, 43 percent of adults say the country is headed in the right direction, while 53 percent say it's going the wrong way. That's also the best score in two years.
Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, Romney leads for the nomination with scant evidence that Santorum can catch up. The poll found Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, supported by 39 percent, former Sen. Santorum of Pennsylvania by 31 percent, former House Speaker Gingrich by 13 percent and Rep Paul of Texas by 13 percent.
Romney also leads a two-way race with Santorum by 50-44 percent — a sign that Santorum wouldn't pull ahead even if Gingrich dropped out. Miringoff said it was simply wrong for Santorum to assume that all of Gingrich's supporters would side with him because he claims he's more conservative.