WASHINGTON President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are tied at 47 percent support each among likely voters with just over two weeks to go before the U.S. presidential election, a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday said.
The nationwide poll, which was conducted after last Monday's presidential debate, reinforced the perception of the race as a cliffhanger.
It showed "a little bit of a lead" for Romney among the critical "battleground" states as a group, NBC correspondent Chuck Todd said on the network's "Meet the Press" program.
Among a larger sample of registered voters, Obama led Romney 49% to 44%, the Wall Street Journal said in a report on the poll on its website. This, however, was down from a seven-point edge the president had among registered voters in late September, the Journal said.
"Sitting at 47 is a good number for a challenger, but not a good number for an incumbent" close to the November 6 election, NBC's Todd said on Meet the Press. He said Obama's lead among women - 51 percent to 43 percent - was his smallest all year long.
Obama's campaign adviser David Axelrod, appearing on the NBC program, said polls for the election were "all over the map." He said he had always predicted Obama's re-election attempt would be close.
"If you look at the early voting that's going on around the country, it's very robust and its very favorable to us. And we think that's a better indicator than these public polls, which are frankly all over the, all over the map," Axelrod said.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who has helped Romney prepare for campaign debates, told Meet the Press: "I like what I see because the trend is in our direction ... that's where you want to be at this point in the campaign."
Romney has been closing in on Obama in recent weeks, with several surveys showing the pair tied or close to it, as Americans remain split between giving Obama more time to fix the economy, or choosing a former business executive who argues he knows best how to create jobs.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Saturday showed Obama with a razor-thin lead, 46 percent to 45 percent. The margin had narrowed from Friday when he had a three-point lead.
After the third and final presidential debate on Monday, Obama travels later in the week to battleground states Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Ohio to try to fend off Romney's challenge.
The NBC/WSJ poll of 816 likely voters and 1,000 registered voters was conducted October 17-20. It has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.43 percentage points for the sample of likely voters and plus-minus 3.1 percentage points for registered voters.
(Reporting By Susan Cornwell; Editing by Alistair Bell and David Brunnstrom)