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WASHINGTON - Republican Mitt Romney is gaining on rival Barack Obama on the favorability front but still trails the president, a new poll showed Monday.
Romney's favorable rating has jumped 14 points since February -- the height of the Republican Party's nomination battle -- to 48 percent, while Obama's has remained stable in recent months at 56 percent, according to a CNN/ORC International poll.
Both Obama and Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge for the White House in November, are seen in a negative light by 42 percent of respondents.
"The biggest gap between Obama and Romney's favorable ratings is among younger Americans. More than two-thirds of those under 30 have a favorable view of Obama, compared to only four in 10 who feel that way about Romney," CNN polling director Keating Holland said.
Romney dominates among seniors and has a "small advantage among independent voters, but that is offset by his lower favorable rating among Republicans than Obama has among Democrats," he added.
Obama still maintains a 49-46 percent lead over Romney in the overall White House race, within the poll's margin of error. Other recent polls show similar margins.
After last week's lousy jobs report that showed the US unemployment rate ticking up to 8.2 percent, and as Obama's criticism of Romney's record at private equity firm Bain Capital raised some Democrats' hackles, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul clearly laid out the campaign's plan of attack in the days ahead.
"This week we will continue to focus on how President Obama is hostile to job creators, particularly small business," she said.
Romney's campaign accuses Obama of having made a series of missteps on the economy while portraying the challenger as a successful job creator as governor of Massachusetts who has business acumen from his time at Bain.
"As president, Barack Obama has a record of trillion-dollar deficits, soaring national debt, lost jobs and the highest chronic unemployment in recorded history," Saul added.
To hammer home the point, the campaign unleashed a barrage of 11 conference calls in swing states like Ohio and Florida, in which Romney surrogates took Obama to task for economic policies which they say stifle business.
Congressman Bob Latta of Ohio said Obama has left entrepreneurs deeply insecure about the country's economic direction, and that they consistently told him four things were holding back their businesses.
"Federal regulations, taxes, Obamacare (Obama's health care reform law) and energy costs," Latta told reporters on one of the conference calls.
The Romney campaign also took Obama to task for rushing off to New York to rub elbows Monday with Broadway theater stars and other celebrities at campaign fundraisers.
The White House insists Obama is on the right path after shepherding the United States out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and is urging Congress to pass job creating measures languishing on Capitol Hill.