Mitt Romney may have effectively wrapped up the GOP nomination with Rick Santorum's withdrawal yesterday, but PPP's newest North Carolina poll really shows how much Romney was hurt by the process with Barack Obama as the ultimate beneficiary.
Obama now leads Romney by 5 points in North Carolina, 49-44. That's the largest lead we've found for him in monthly polling dating back to November of 2010. Obama has a 51-38 advantage with independents and is particularly strong with women (54-39), African Americans (90-7), voters under 30 (61-33), and folks in the Triangle (60-33).
The Republican nomination process has taken a huge toll on Romney's image in North Carolina. In February of 2011 voters in the state were almost evenly divided on him with 37% rating him favorably to 39% who had a negative opinion of him. Now that spread is a dreadful 29/58. His numbers with GOP voters are about where they've been, but he's seen a considerable drop in his appeal to Democrats and independents.
He was actually popular with independents at 45/36 last winter, now he is incredibly unpopular at 25/62. And what was once a decent amount of crossover appeal to Democrats with 23% seeing him favorably to 52% with a negative opinion is now a 12/77 spread. Romney may see some improvement in his numbers as conservative leaning voters start to unify around him, but for now they're pretty dreadful.
Ron Paul matches Romney's general election viability in North Carolina, also trailing Obama by a 5 point margin at 48-43. Newt Gingrich would be far weaker, trailing Obama by 10 points at 51-41. His favorability spread is 26/64. It's irrelevant now but we found Rick Santorum trailing Obama 50-44 on this poll.
It's unlikely Obama will really end up taking North Carolina by 5 points in the fall. Things will probably tighten up as Republicans unify around Romney. But it's a great position for Obama to be in a state that he really doesn't need in order to be reelected this fall.
Full results here