Although President Barack Obama has seen solid leads evaporate in the last week, a poll released Saturday night suggests that Ohio may continue to serve as a firewall for his campaign.
The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Obama leading Mitt Romney among likely Ohio voters, 51 percent to 46 percent. That's little change from PPP's pre-debate poll of Ohio two weeks ago, which showed Obama up 4.
The PollTracker Average currently shows Obama holding a small lead over Romney in Ohio, 47.5 percent to 47.2 percent.
Obama has outperformed Romney in Ohio throughout this campaign. By the end of September it looked like the president was poised to walk away with the Buckeye State's 18 electoral votes. But a successful outing in the first presidential debate breathed new life into Romney's campaign, and the Republican nominee has subsequently either narrowed or erased Obama's leads both nationwide and in swing states.
Saturday's poll offered plenty of explanations for Obama's durability in Ohio. For one, the president's resilience there could be a testament to his robust field operation. By a roughly 3-to-1 ratio, the Obama team claims more campaign offices statewide than Romney. The fruits of Obama's ground game may be discernible in the poll: among the nearly 20 percent of Ohioans who said that they have already voted, 76 percent of them cast their ballots for the president. Romney, on the other hand, leads Obama among those who have not voted yet, 51 percent to 45 percent.
What's more, PPP's findings underscore what's been so paramount to the president's standing both in Ohio and in neighboring states. Fifty-four percent of Ohio voters said they support the bailout of the U.S. automotive industry, long a significant source of support for Obama throughout the Rust Belt, while 37 percent said they remain opposed. On the question of which candidate would be better for the auto industry, 50 percent of Ohio voters gave the nod to Obama compared with 43 percent who said Romney. And a majority of Ohio voters, 51 percent, said they trust Obama more on the economy, while 46 percent said they preferred Romney.
Obama's approval rating has improved since PPP's Ohio poll in late-September, which showed a narrow plurality of the state's voters disapproving of his job as president. In Saturday's poll, 50 percent of Ohio voters said they approve of Obama's job performance, while 48 percent said they disapprove. Romney's own personal standing has gotten slightly worse: 51 percent of voters there have an unfavorable view of the former Massachusetts governor, up from 49 percent in September.
While Romney's surge in many polls this week showed a narrowing of the gender gap, PPP's latest survey found Obama widening his lead among Ohio women. The president leads by 12 among female voters in the state, a big bump from his slim 2-point edge late last month.
PPP did not survey Ohio last weekend, so it is unclear what immediate damage Obama incurred there for his flat performance in the Oct. 3 presidential debate. But it's possible the president was at least partly redeemed by his running mate: 46 percent of Ohio voters said Vice President Joe Biden was the winner of Thursday night's vice presidential debate, while 37 percent gave the edge to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
PPP conducted its survey Oct. 12-13 using automated interviews with 880 likely Ohio voters. The poll has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.