Going into the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney’s campaign is alive and well and making inroads in the key swing states of Florida and Virginia and well within striking distance of winning the White House, according to the latest polls.
While President Barack Obama is holding firm to his substantial lead in Ohio, Romney has crept back to within the margin of error in Florida and Virginia, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls.
Obama leads in Florida, 47 percent to 46 percent. In Ohio, he is up 51 percent to 43 percent. In Virginia, he leads Romney 48 percent to 46 percent. Romney has tightened the race in Florida and Virginia since the close of the Democratic National Convention last month.
“The polling in September was right after the conventions," Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff told NBC News. "We may be seeing a dissipation in some of that post-convention bounce that [Obama] enjoyed.”
Miringoff added, “Things have returned in Florida and Virginia to the kind of closeness we've been seeing earlier in the campaign. Not so in Ohio."
New polls also found:
- In Florida, Romney is leading among independents, 47 percent to 41 percent.
- Obama's 8-point lead in Ohio is virtually unchanged from last month, according to NBC News, and he is still favored by Independents there 47 percent to 43 percent.
- In Virginia, Romney has cut Obama’s 5-point post-convention lead to 2 points in the new poll.
- Romney is making inroads on the issue of foreign policy, cutting Obama’s lead in Florida and Virginia from 13-15 points to 9 points.
- Romney has some ground to make up in Florida on the issue of Medicare: 48 percent of voters choose Obama on handling Medicare, to 43 percent for Romney.
- Nationally, if voters split evenly between the two major parties, Romney would have an advantage, according to NPR. He has a 4-point favorite among independents, according to an NPR poll.
Republican pollster Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic told NPR
that Romney needs "to paint a compelling picture for a better economic future, and explain why his emphasis on small businesses and private sector solutions is more likely to succeed than Obama's emphasis on governmental and public sector solutions."
Romney can move some more numbers in his direction in the debates, Ayres said. "He needs to come across as knowledgeable and compassionate about people who are hurting in this economy. ... If he does that, then he will help to close this gap," he told NPR.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps cautioned that Obama cannot take his lead for granted.
"He's got to decide on one thing that he wants to communicate here," Greenberg told NPR. "My guess is he'll want to communicate a presidential — but not arrogant — empathetic style. He's got to focus in a way that seals the deal."
Romney gained in Florida and Virginia among likely female voters. In Florida, Obama led among women, 48 percent to 45 percent, down from a 12-point advantage last month. Men backed Romney by one point, 47 percent to 46 percent, after supporting him 49 percent to 45 percent in September.
Women in Virginia backed Obama, 52 percent to 44 percent, down from 54 percent to 40 percent in September. Romney led among men, 48 percent to 45 percent, compared with a 49 percent to 44 percent advantage the previous month.
In Ohio, where Obama retained his lead, he polled 56 percent of female voters compared with 39 percent for Romney. In September, Obama’s advantage was 54 percent to 38 percent. Romney led among men, 48 percent to 46 percent, unchanged from a month ago.
At least 50 percent of voters in all three states viewed Obama favorably. In Florida, Romney was viewed favorably by 46 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent. His unfavorable rating was higher in Ohio, 51 percent to 42 percent, and in Virginia, 47 percent to 45 percent.
Obama was preferred on handling the economy, 48 percent to 44 percent, in Ohio. Romney had the advantage in Virginia, 46 percent to 45 percent, and the two candidates were tied in Florida at 45 percent.
Pollsters surveyed by telephone 890 likely voters in Florida with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, 931 likely voters in Ohio with a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points, and 969 likely voters in Virginia with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
In the national NBC/Journal poll, 43 percent of registered voters said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and private- equity executive, would do better at creating jobs and improving the economy; 42 percent picked Obama. Among these voters, Obama was viewed favorably by 52 percent and unfavorably by 42 percent; Romney was rated favorably by 41 percent and unfavorably by 44 percent.
Registered voters, by 57 percent to 39 percent, said the economy was recovering; by 44 percent to 13 percent, they said it would improve in the next 12 months; 35 percent said it wouldn’t change.
Obama’s job performance rating was 49 percent positive and 48 percent negative.
The poll of 832 likely voters was taken Sept. 26-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The larger sample of 1,000 registered voters has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, Bloomberg reported.
Another poll showed Obama with an advantage over Romney similar to his pre-election margins four years ago, though the president’s edge among all voters was smaller than at a similar point in 2008.
Obama led by 56 percent to 38 percent among women in a survey of likely voters released yesterday by Quinnipiac University. Romney led among men, 52 percent to 42 percent. Obama had a four-percentage-point advantage among all voters, Bloomberg reported.
A Quinnipiac poll taken in mid-September 2008 showed Obama with a 14-point lead, 54 percent to 40 percent, among likely female voters as Republican nominee John McCain, an Arizona senator, led among men, 50 percent to 43 percent.
Obama also leads Romney 70 percent to 26 percent among likely Hispanic voters, according to a CNN/ORC International poll published yesterday.
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