Romney 49, Obama 46

Early polls don’t matter, etc and etc, but no Democrat is blowing off the Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Among all Americans, Obama and Romney are knotted at 47 percent each, and among registered voters, the former governor is numerically ahead, 49 percent to 46 percent.

Overall, about six in 10 of those surveyed give Obama negative marks on the economy and the deficit. Significantly, nearly half strongly disapprove of his performance in these two crucial areas.

The deficit issue is a hopeless quagmire for Obama. One: People don’t actually care about it except as a symbol of American decline and economic malaise. ( Ask Dick Cheney. ) Two: There’s a lengthy, gruesome record of Obama rhetoric on the deficit that doesn’t hold up now. He’s worried about it! (2008.) It’s Bush’s fault! (2009.) He’ll cut it in half by 2013! (2009.) Three: Democrats are pretty hopeless at using the deficit as a chit to argue against tax cuts or for tax hikes, whereas Republicans are able to portray themselves as deficit hawks – a term that used to mean “we’ll do anything to cut the deficit,” but now means “we’ll cut spending and taxes and it’ll work out, because Art Laffer.”

Good news for Democrats: None of this matters if the economy recovers. But it’s not recovering. And that’s why Gingrich trails Obama by single digits – a result almost as telling as the Romney lead.