Romney pulling even with Obama in polls

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A barrage of post-debate polls finds Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney erasing or reducing President Barack Obama's recent leads nationally and in key swing states.

Mr. Romney's leads in new national polls propelled him Tuesday ahead of Mr. Obama for the first time in the RealClearPolitics survey average. And statewide polls depicted the Republican in a newly competitive position in states including Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Those were some of the first results from surveys conducted after the initial presidential campaign debate last week in Denver. The collective findings underscore the stakes in Thursday's vice-presidential debate as well as in the two rematches between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama that will follow on Tuesday and Oct. 22.

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio's electoral votes. For most of the year, Mr. Obama had maintained a lead there that had surged to the high single digits in the weeks immediately after the Democratic convention.

But a new CNN survey released late Tuesday found him ahead, 51 percent to 47 percent -- just outside the survey's margin of error. And another poll released Tuesday, from the American Research Group, actually found Mr. Romney with a 1-point lead in the Buckeye State, where he'll be campaigning for the next several days.

In Pennsylvania, a state that both campaigns had apparently written off for months as an Obama lock, two new surveys showed the former governor within striking distance of the president. Susquehanna Polling & Research reported that Mr. Obama was leading in the state, 47 percent to 45 percent, and a Siena poll put the race at 43 percent to 40 percent in his favor.

While the new polling on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border showed close races, both campaigns' body language and tactics continued to suggest that they see Ohio as the more competitive state. Neither is currently airing ads in Pennsylvania, while Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo were all among the top 15 campaign-advertising markets in September, according to Wesleyan University Media.

A Romney campaign aide confirmed a report that five of Pennsylvania's on-the-ground staff had been shifted at least temporarily to Ohio to coincide with the onset of early voting there. And both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney returned to Ohio to campaign this week.

Early voting in Ohio began Oct. 2. Ohio Secretary of State John Husted announced Tuesday that he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling that overturned the state's prior decision to halt early voting on the three days before the election. The Obama campaign successfully argued to the appeals court that the restriction would violate the constitutional right to equal protection.

Nationally, perhaps the best news for Mr. Romney came from a Pew Research survey, released Monday, that found the Republican leading, 49 percent to 45 percent -- a significant turnaround from last month, when the same survey saw an Obama lead of 8 percentage points.

The Gallup organization's daily tracking poll of likely voters showed Mr. Romney leading Mr. Obama, 49 percent to 47 percent. Rasmussen's national tracking poll found a very similar picture, with a tie at 48 percent.

Mirroring the tight race nationally, in each of the big three battleground states -- Ohio, Virginia and Florida -- the margin in the RealClearPolitics polling average was less than 1 percentage point. The president was leading in Ohio and Virginia, while Mr. Romney was up in Florida.

Despite the relatively narrow margins in the two most recent polls, Mr. Obama remained up 6 percentage points in the RCP Pennsylvania average. As late as last week, the day before the Denver debate, a CBS survey had found a 12-point lead for Mr. Obama in the state.

In Wisconsin, a survey released Monday by Public Policy Polling showed Mr. Obama leading, 49 percent to 47 percent. In mid-September, the Democratic-leaning firm had found a 7-point lead for the president there. PPP's latest Virginia poll showed Mr. Obama up there, 50 percent to 47 percent.

In Florida, where Mr. Obama had been opening a lead after his party's convention, the two post-Denver surveys showed Mr. Romney with a narrow advantage.

In North Carolina, a state Mr. Obama carried by just 14,000 votes four years ago, Mr. Romney was ahead in the most recent poll by Gravis Marketing, after several weeks in which Mr. Obama had held a narrow edge.

Colorado was one of several states where there was dissonance in the post-debate polling. The University of Denver saw Mr. Obama with a 4-point lead; Rasmussen, an edge of just 1 percentage point for the president; while the American Research Group saw a 4-point lead for Mr. Romney.

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