Obama leads all GOP contenders in new poll

President Obama begins a three-day campaign trip Wednesday riding on good news from the latest CBS News-New York Times poll.

According to the survey, voters prefer the president over all his potential Republican rivals in November.

While those possible rivals continue their long and drawn-out battle for their party's nomination, the president is heading out do some fundraising, just a week after his campaign reversed course, saying it would encourage those large, unlimited donations to a "Super PAC" supporting him.

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The campaign swing will take Mr. Obama first to Wisconsin, an important swing state where he'll showcase jobs returning to the U.S. from overseas.

Then, a series of fundraisers in California, and an appearance in Seattle at Boeing, which has just announced a $22 billion dollar airplane order.

The trip finds the president better-positioned than he expected at this point. His approval rating in the new poll is 50 percent, its highest point since the death of Osama bin Laden.

More good news -- smooth sailing on Capitol Hill for his proposed payroll tax cut, which just days ago seemed destined for a fight with House Republicans.

That had Mr. Obama warily optimistic. "You can't take anything for granted here in Washington until my signature is actually on it," he cautioned.

Even though more Americans still disapprove than approve of the president's handling of the economy, his numbers have moved steadily upward since November, from 34 percent approval to 44 percent.

And the Republican considered most likely to be his opponent in November, Mitt Romney, now trails in a head-to-head match-up, by six percentage points among registered voters.

And even more importantly -- independents -- who will be crucial to victory in November -- now break for the president over Romney by 9 points. Just one month ago, Romney was up 8. That's a 17-point swing.

But it's way too soon to pop the champagne corks: The economy is still the biggest issue by far for voters -- and three quarters of them say it's in bad condition.

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent