The race between President Obama and Mitt Romney is deadlocked among likely voters in the Nov. 6 general election, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll slated to be released on Sunday.
The poll also shows Obama with a slight advantage among a wider universe of registered voters; that finding, consistent with other surveys, suggests that if Republicans are successful in denying Obama a second term, it will be driven in part by a turnout advantage over the Democrats.
Obama and Romney are tied among likely voters in the poll, each with 47 percent of the vote, according to the websites of both news organizations. Among all registered voters, Obama holds an apparent lead over Romney, 49 percent to 44 percent.
The poll also shows a significant gender gap, with Romney leading among male voters likely to cast ballots, 53 percent to 43 percent, while Obama leads among females, 51 percent to 43 percent.
Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod dismissed the poll Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, pointing out that NBC has sponsored polls this week showing the president with a sizable lead in battleground states Iowa and Wisconsin. Axelrod said he is more focused on early voting, which he says has favored Obama, than public polling, which he called "all over the map."
Regardless, he added, it's not a surprise that the race would be close with two weeks left. "If you look back on tape, every time I've visited with you, I've predicted this is going to be a close race," he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pointed to a shrinking gender gap as evidence that Obama's message to women is starting to wither because he doesn't talk enough about his plans to turn the economy around in his second term.
"What's he going to do the next four years so women can find jobs?" Rubio asked. "That's the number-one issue in America. That's the number 2 issue in America."
The poll was conducted Oct. 17-20 by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. It consisted of interviews with 1,000 registered voters, 816 of whom were deemed likely to vote. The margin of error for the full poll is plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points, with a slightly higher margin of plus-or-minus 3.4 percentage points for likely voters.
Complete poll results are scheduled to be released Sunday evening.