Republicans Romney, Gingrich tied - poll
Washington - Republican US presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are in a dead heat in the race for the nomination, a national poll showed on Tuesday, two weeks before Iowans kick off the 2012 election cycle.
A Washington Post/ABC survey said the two White House hopefuls were favoured by 30% of Republican voters and Republican-leaning independents, with Congressman Ron Paul in third spot, taking 15% of the vote.
No other Republican candidate scored double figures in the poll, which also gave US President Barack Obama his best rating since March - other than a short spike in appeal after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Although national polls are considered a reasonable barometer of US voting intentions they are not reliable in predicting the outcome of a presidential race because the American election is a state-by-state affair.
A win in the Iowa caucuses on January 3 will give one of the Republican hopefuls a huge boost going into the New Hampshire primary on January 10, which is swiftly followed by a vote in South Carolina on January 21.
The most influential newspaper in the critical state of Iowa endorsed Romney for the Republican nomination at the weekend, praising his "sobriety, wisdom and judgment", to take on Obama in the November 2012 national vote.
The Washington Post/ABC poll said that although most Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, the number who disagreed with his overall performance had fallen below 50%.
A separate CNN/Opinion research national poll on Monday also had Romney and Gingrich deadlocked at 28% support among Republicans, with Paul (14%) again in third place.
Gingrich, written off a few months ago, surged at the end of November to seize the frontrunner's mantle from former Massachusetts governor Romney but then fell back under an onslaught of attacks from his rivals.
A new series of polls has seen Gingrich's stock ebb sharply in Iowa.