Polls: Obama Maintains 5-Point Lead In Ohio, Race Tightens In Virginia, Florida

Tom Kludt

President Obama's leads in Florida and Virginia have evaporated, but he remains on solid footing in the all-important bellwether of Ohio, according to the latest round of polls from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times released early Wednesday morning.

The polls reflect a late theme in this year's campaign: even as the race tightens or tilts in Mitt Romney's favor elsewhere, Ohio remains stubbornly in the president's column. Wednesday's poll of the Buckeye State shows Obama earning 50 percent support among likely voters there, while Romney trails with 45 percent — identical to the previous Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT poll of Ohio a little more than a week ago.

As in the previous poll, Obama draws an enormous advantage among women and early voters in Ohio. Women in the state prefer Obama over Romney 56 percent to 39 percent. The president's lead among Ohio voters who have already cast a ballot is comparably large: 60 percent to 34 percent. And perhaps just as crucial for the Obama campaign, Romney's edge with white voters and independents is decidedly smaller in Ohio than in other battlegrounds.

The PollTracker Average shows Obama ticking up in Ohio again after Romney closed the gap following the first presidential debate.

Obama also enjoys a wide advantage among Virginia women, but that advantage has shrunk since September and so has his overall lead. Wednesday's poll shows the president up by 10 among female voters in the commonwealth while claiming a slim lead over Romney among all likely voters in the state 49 percent to 47 percent. Obama eclipsed 50 percent and led Romney by 5 in the Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT poll of Virginia earlier this month. The president held a 16-point lead among Virginia women in that poll too.

There has been a pronounced gender gap in Virginia throughout the campaign, and that's been a large source of Obama's underlying strength there. But as the president's advantage among women voters has narrowed this month, so too have his leads both nationally and in swing states.

Like in Ohio, the PollTracker Average of Virginia shows the president bouncing back to reclaim the lead that he maintained steadily throughout the summer and expanded in September.

The president's steepest drop has come in Florida, where he reached 53 percent and opened up a 9-point lead over the Republican nominee in the late-September Quinnipiac/CBS/NYT poll. In the latest survey, Obama polls at 48 percent and leads Romney by a mere point among likely Sunshine State voters.

Romney's rebound in Florida can be attributed to his base rallying around him — perhaps belatedly — in the last month. Republicans there own a 16-point enthusiasm edge over their Democratic counterparts, according to Wednesday's poll. Moreover, 74 percent of Romney's supporters in Florida now say they strongly favor him, a 17-point spike from a month ago that places the strength of his support there on par with Obama's.

The PollTracker Average shows the race as tight as can be in Florida, with virtually nothing separating the two candidates.

The polls were conducted Oct. 23-28 by live phone interviews with 1,073 likely voters in Florida, 1,110 likely voters in Ohio and 1,074 likely voters in Virginia. Each sample has a margin of error of three percentage points.