The top four Republican presidential candidates are running neck-and-neck with President Obama in national general election matchups, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday.
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The poll, conducted last week as Obama's approval rating cratered around 40 percent, shows Obama leading Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., 48 to 44 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., 47 to 45 percent.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry ties the president at 47 percent each, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads Obama, 48 to 46 percent.
At this early stage of the campaign, Republicans are largely lined up behind their candidates to a greater extent than Democrats are behind the incumbent president.
Republicans are firmly behind Perry (92 percent) and Romney (91 percent). Bachmann (86 percent) and Paul (82 percent) perform slightly worse among members of their own party.
Video: Obama campaign adviser on Perry, Bachmann (on this page)
But except for Paul, all of the GOP candidates perform better among members of their party than Obama does among Democrats. Obama earns between 84 and 86 percent among Democrats across the four matchups.
Independents are split: Romney and Paul lead among that group by three points, Perry by two, but Obama leads Bachmann among independents by six points.
But there is likely to be a great deal of change between now and Election Day, according to a brief history of Gallup surveys conducted at this stage of the campaign.
-- In August 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush led Vice President Al Gore by 14 points. Gore ended up narrowly winning the popular vote.
-- In August 1995, then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., had a two-point lead over President Bill Clinton. Dole lost by eight.
-- In August 1983, Ronald Reagan had a slender, one-point lead over former Vice President Walter Mondale. Reagan would be re-elected by 18 points the following November, after economic growth spiked in the second half of Reagan's first term.
-- In August 1979, President Jimmy Carter and Reagan were tied at 45 percent. Reagan won by 10 points in 1980.
The new Gallup poll was conducted Aug. 17-18. Gallup surveyed 879 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.
The article, "Gallup Poll: GOP Contenders Neck-And-Neck With Obama," first appeared in the National Journal.
Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.