President Barack Obama leads both GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in a hypothetical general election matchup, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll. Fifty-two percent of voters surveyed chose Obama over Romney's 43 percent. Obama had a 15-point advantage over Gingrich.
Even better news for Obama was the jump in his approval rating. Fifty percent of the survey's participants approve of Obama's overall performance, the highest rating the president has received since the U.S. government killed Osama bin Laden in early May. Forty-six percent, however, disapprove of Obama.
The Washington Post poll interviewed 1,000 people nationwide. The poll was conducted Feb. 1 to Feb. 4.
The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Henry Blodget discussed the poll results in the above video and analyzed what factors have led to the jump in Obama's approval rating, which at one point was as low as 38 percent. Both agreed that the economy remains the best barometer of Obama's performance. As Henry notes, Obama's fortune has changed drastically since the end of last year, with the downward trend in the national unemployment rate jump-starting the president's momentum. The White House would like to take credit for the improving jobs picture and brighter economic climate, but these economic gains remain tenuous and everything could change before the general election in November. [See also: Who Is President Matters Much Less Than We Think: Freakonomics' Stephen Dubner.]
As the government cranks out positive economic report after another, stocks have also benefited. The S&P 500 Index is up nearly seven percent since the beginning of the year. Investors are more likely to put money into equities and take on riskier positions when there's less economic uncertainty and pessimism.
The Washington Post/ABC Poll gives more credibility to those who feel Romney will be the GOP nominee. Romney handily beat Gingrich, his closest GOP competitor, in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday and the former Massachusetts governor is expected to win both the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses tomorrow.
Romney is the only Republican candidate to have back-to-back wins, first in Florida and then Nevada. Will Romney's winning streak continue? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on our Facebook page.