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Obama Trails Romney in Election Matchup

Despite the hand-wringing in Republican circles about the current frontrunners, both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are still statistically tied with President Obama in a general election matchup, according to a Gallup poll out today. Romney leads Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent, while Obama leads Santorum, 49 percent to 48 percent. Both matchups are within the margin of error.

The poll indicates that the brutal primary battle between Romney and Santorum hasn’t noticeably hurt either candidate with general election voters. In fact, the Romney-Obama matchup numbers have been remarkably stable since August, while Santorum’s have improved considerably. This is despite the fact that Obama’s approval ratings on the economy have been creeping upward recently:

Looking ahead, four in 10 said they expect the economy to get better in the next year and a third said they think the number of unemployed people in the U.S. will decrease, the highest share on either question since last spring. A quarter of those surveyed said they expect the economy to get worse over the next 12 months, while 31 percent said it would stay the same, the poll found.

As optimism has risen, Obama has received a corresponding bump in his approval rating for handling the economy. Forty-eight percent now say they approve of how he’s handling it, up 9 points from December.

This should be a concern for the Obama campaign. If the GOP circus during the past few weeks hasn’t boosted his general election chances, and his rebounding economic approval ratings aren’t doing the trick, then what exactly will help him?