A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll makes it clear: Voters give Mitt Romney an edge over President Barack Obama on ideas for lifting the struggling American economy.
But how important is that edge? If you look at economic conditions in electoral battleground states, perhaps not as important as the national picture would suggest.
The NBC/WSJ survey shows the Democratic incumbent with some familiar advantages. By 16 points, voters rate Obama more highly for "looking out for the middle class." By 10 points, they give him the edge on "being a good commander-in-chief" — an unusually strong showing for a Democrat that Romney aims to cut into with a trip to Israel, Poland and Britain this week.
At the same time, slow growth and persistently high unemployment has helped the Republican challenger, a former financial industry executive, gain a notable edge on the most important issue in the campaign. By 7 points, voters rate Romney more highly for "having good ideas for how to improve the economy."
Yet the fact that some of the swing states in the election are faring better economically may blunt that edge. For example, the unemployment rates in Iowa and New Hampshire are both 3 full points below the 8.2 percent national rate; Obama leads in both states by 1 and 5 percentage points, respectively, according to an average of recent polls by realclearpolitics.com.
In the pivotal Midwest, Ohio's 7.2 percent unemployment rate is also below the national average. Obama leads there by 4 points. No Republican nominee has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.