OBAMA/The next U.S. presidential election is more than 2-1/2 years away. But pollsters are already asking how President Barack Obama would stack up against a Republican challenger.

The results are favorable. But for whom? No one can say.

Obama is in a statistical dead heat against an unnamed Republican candidate, leading the challenger 44 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll with a 4-percentage-point margin of error. Gallup surveyed 1,025 adults Feb. 1-3.

Media pundits are divided about what the findings mean, or don’t mean.

Some say the data are meaningless except as a gauge of 2010 voter anger toward Washington and incumbents generally.

OBAMA/Others argue that the poll is good news for Obama if it means angry voters would give him the edge over an ideal Republican candidate.

Donny Deutsch, an advertising expert and TV personality who worked for the 1992 Clinton/Gore presidential campaign, says the numbers could spell opportunity for a Scott Brown-style political newcomer  in 2012.