ANALYSIS: President Obama now leads Mitt Romney 50 percent to 44 percent among registered voters in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll out today. That's after a previous survey before last week's Democratic National Convention showed the two candidates tied at 48 percent.
ABC News Pollster Gary Langer notes: "For the first time Obama's numerically ahead of Romney in trust to handle the economy, the key issue of the 2012 contest, albeit by a scant 47-45 percent. Obama's seized a 15-point lead in trust to advance the interests of the middle class. And strong enthusiasm among his supporters is up by 8 points from its pre-convention level; Obama now leads Romney by 10 points in 'very' enthusiastic support."
BUT THE RACE IS STILL VERY TIGHT: Among likely voters -- people who say they're both registered and certain to vote -- the race squeezes shut at 49-48 percent, Obama-Romney, essentially unchanged since before the conventions (+2 Romney then, +1 Obama now, well within sampling error.) That means that Romney's supporters express greater intention to vote -- a challenge for Obama's ground game, and a suggestion that the race could come down to turnout.
ON TAXES: Obama for the first time is running about evenly with Romney in trust to handle the deficit, and scoring 50-43 percent against him in trust to handle taxes - not a statistically significant margin given the sample size, but still a slight improvement, and Obama's best numerically this year. In general, it's a problem for Republicans when a Democrat is competitive on taxes and the deficit.
WHAT A NARROW LEAD MEANS IN 2012: A lot, according to ABC's Matthew Dowd, who contextualized the new numbers on "World News": "A four point lead, or a four or five point lead in this environment is as significant as a 10 to 12 point lead 15, 20 years ago," Dowd said. "Today, we only have about six percent of people that are truly swing and truly persuadable, so if you get a four or five or six point bounce, it means you're maximizing" what you can get.
THE EMPATHY GAP: Obama's advantages include a persistent lead over Romney in empathy; registered voters by 50-40 percent think Obama better understands the economic problems people are having, and continue to rate him as more personally likeable, by a broad and steady 61-27 percent.
LOOK WHO'S WANTED FOR DINNER: From ABC's Gregory J. Krieg: As for suppertime, still more ugly numbers for Romney. Fifty-two percent of registered voters polled by ABC News said they'd rather have Obama visit their homes for dinner. Just 33 percent said they'd prefer Romney at the table.