After a relative lull in campaigning, the Republican presidential candidates are back at it Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina and Texas.
And a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday reiterates some of what prospective voters have been saying in other public opinion polls, and what primary voters have been indicating in exit polls. In short: Mitt Romney has a likability gap when compared with President Obama, but the state of the economy could offset that advantage for the president.
Obama also holds a clear advantage among female voters when compared with Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee.
The Post also notes:
A wide gender gap underlies the current state of the race. Romney is up eight percentage points among male voters but trails by 19 among women. Among independent voters, one of the most watched groups in the electorate, the two men are closely paired, with 48 percent supporting Romney and 46 percent backing Obama.
And if the election were held today, Obama would beat Romney 51 percent to 44 percent in the popular vote, and beat Rick Santorum by 52 percent to 42 percent, the poll showed.
Of course, the election is nearly seven months away, the popular vote won't necessarily mirror its outcome, and Obama's opponent is not even official yet.
To that end, Santorum, who had been caring for his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, announced that she had been released from the hospital and that he would resume campaigning for the first time since last week with an afternoon event in Gettysburg, Pa.
Romney has campaign events scheduled in Delaware and Pennsylvania, two of the five states holding the next GOP primaries, on April 24.
Newt Gingrich is campaigning in North Carolina, which votes May 8.
And Ron Paul is on a three-day campaign swing in his home state of Texas, which doesn't vote until May 29.
On Tuesday, Paul released a new TV ad in Texas that, while relatively light by the attack-ad standards of the past several months, hits all three of his GOP rivals in their political sweet spots.
"Let's get this straight," the ad starts: "We're debating between a big-spending, debt-ceiling-raising fiscal liberal [Santorum]; a moon colony guy [Gingrich]; a moderate from Massachusetts [Romney]; or — a Texan, with a real plan to balance the budget."
The Etch A Sketch even makes a brief cameo.
On the ad front, Romney's campaign had pulled a spot attacking Santorum in his home state of Pennsylvania after Bella's hospitalization because of pneumonia. Santorum's young daughter has a rare genetic disorder, Trisomy 18, and has been hospitalized twice in recent months.
Santorum might expect Romney to put the gloves back on as he returns to the campaign trail, The New York Times reports:
Once Bella is released from the hospital, the Romney campaign is expected to put the anti-Santorum ad back into its rotation, although that could take a day or two. The Romney campaign has planned a $2.9 million barrage of advertising over the next two weeks in Pennsylvania, which Mr. Santorum has called a must-win contest, although polls show him losing ground.
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