(MSNBC) By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News — Despite a volatile and eventful past few weeks in the early presidential contest, President Barack Obama continues to hold a small – and slightly narrowing – lead over Mitt Romney, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
But given the public’s pessimism about the economy and the direction of the country, Romney finds himself well within striking distance in an election that has the potential to be as close as the 2004 race between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry.
“Obama’s chances for re-election ... are no better than 50-50,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican Bill McInturff.
“So much has happened, and so little has changed,” Hart adds. “And it tells you this is a dead-even race.”
This poll – which was taken after the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, Obama’s announcement in support of gay marriage, fresh economic worries about Europe, and last month’s tepid jobs report – shows the Democrat leading Romney by four points among registered voters, 47 percent to 43 percent.
In April, Obama’s edge in the survey was two points higher, 49 percent to 43 percent.
In the newest poll, Obama leads Romney among African Americans (88 percent to 2 percent), 18 to 34 year olds (55 percent to 35 percent), women (53 percent to 38 percent), independents (44 percent to 36 percent), and seniors (46 percent to 44 percent).
Romney, meanwhile, holds the advantage with whites (52 percent to 39 percent), men (49 percent to 40 percent), suburban residents (47 percent to 41 percent), Midwest residents (48 percent to 43 percent), and high-interest voters (47 percent to 44 percent).