WASHINGTON — Republican challenger Mitt Romney narrowed the gap with President Barack Obama among likely voters in several swing-state polls released Tuesday.
Obama had a sizable lead in Ohio and one Virginia poll, while another survey in Virginia and those in Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin showed three points or less separating the candidates. According to strategists in both parties, these are among the states that — because of their history of voting for either major political party — will decide who wins the White House on Nov. 6.
A CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll put Romney ahead in Colorado, 48 percent to 47 percent, a reversal of Obama's one-point lead last month. The president continued to lead in Virginia, 51 percent to 46 percent, up one point from his 50 percent to 46 percent advantage in September, and in Wisconsin, 50 percent to 47 percent, down from 51 percent to 45 percent the month before.
Romney was ahead in Virginia, 48 percent to 47 percent, in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey, a reversal of Obama's 49 percent to 44 percent lead last month. Obama held a one-point advantage in Florida, 48 percent to 47 percent, after being ahead by five points in September, and led, 51 percent to 45 percent, in Ohio after being ahead, 50 percent to 43 percent, last month. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.
Taken together, the surveys show a tightening of the race following the Oct. 3 presidential debate, which most voters said Romney won. A national Pew Research Center poll of likely voters taken Oct. 4-7 gave the former Massachusetts governor a 49 percent to 45 percent lead, a reversal of a September survey that put Obama ahead by 51 percent to 43 percent, the widest margin of any nominee since Bill Clinton in 1996. The two were tied in Gallup's daily tracking poll of likely voters.
"Before the first presidential debate, Romney was the expected loser and overcame those low expectations to impress the voting public," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute in Hamden, Conn.
The latest polls were released in advance of tonight's debate between Vice President Joe Biden and the Republicans' vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, a U.S. representative from Wisconsin.
Thursday's polls showed Romney's favorable ratings improving to the point where he was in positive territory in every state except Ohio. Other than in Colorado, where his rating was 49 percent positive and 48 percent negative, Obama received favorable ratings from at least 50 percent of likely voters in all of the swing states surveyed. Romney did not cross the 50 percent threshold in any state.
The polls also show Obama with a sizable lead among likely female voters, while Romney led among men in all states except Ohio, which was tied at 47 percent. Obama polled 51 percent of likely female voters in Colorado, 54 percent in Florida, 54 percent in Ohio, 54 percent and 56 percent in the two Virginia surveys and 53 percent in Wisconsin.
Romney had the support of 52 percent of likely male voters in Colorado, 54 percent in Florida, 55 percent and 52 percent in the two Virginia polls, and 51 percent in Wisconsin.
The NBC/Journal/Marist telephone polls were taken Oct. 7-9 of 988 likely voters in Florida, 994 in Ohio and 981 in Virginia, all with margins of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The CBS/Times/Quinnipiac telephone polls were taken Oct. 4-9 of 1,254 likely voters in Colorado, 1,288 in Virginia and 1,327 in Wisconsin, with margins of errors of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points in Colorado and 2.7 percentage points in the other two states.