President Obama now holds his largest leads to date in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to three new CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University polls released early Wednesday. The polls all show Obama easily clearing the critical 50-percent threshold in each state, largely as a result of his commanding advantage among female voters.
Obama leads Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 9 points in Florida, 10 points in Ohio and 12 points in Pennsylvania. The three states together combine to award 67 electoral votes, and no candidate has won the presidency without claiming at least two of them since 1960.
Florida and Ohio in particular are considered must-wins for the Romney campaign. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., kicked off a two-day bus tour of Ohio on Tuesday, where they told supporters they would win the state in November.
But the new polls suggest that if the election were held today, they would lose these three states, and likely the Electoral College. In fact, slight majorities of likely voters in all three states say they think Obama would do a better job handling the economy than Romney, the polls show. Compared to Quinnipiac polls conducted prior to the two parties' conventions, Obama has improved significantly on this measure in both Florida and Ohio.
The polls also show significant advantages for Democrats in the composition of the electorate. In each state, Democrats outnumber Republicans by margins of at least 9 percentage points -- though only in Pennsylvania is the change from the previous Quinnipiac survey statistically significant. Regardless, the polls seem likely to further ignite the argument over whether public and media surveys contain more respondents who identify as Democrats than will vote on Election Day.
Obama leads Romney, 53 percent to 44 percent, according to the poll. Four percent of likely voters prefer another candidate or are undecided. That is a significant increase from the previous poll, conducted prior to the parties' conventions in August, when Obama led by a slimmer margin, 49 percent to 46 percent.
The Quinnipiac poll shows Obama with a larger lead than other recent, public surveys. A Washington Post poll released Monday showed Obama with a 4-point lead, while a Mason-Dixon poll conducted for a number of in-state media outlets released on Sunday showed him leading by just 1 point.
Romney holds a slight edge among male voters, 50 percent to 47 percent. But Obama leads by 19 points among women, 58 percent to 39 percent.
White voters favor Romney, 52 percent to 46 percent, a significant increase for Obama from the previous poll, when he trailed by a 19-point margin among this bloc, 57 percent to 38 percent. Obama wins nearly 90 percent of black voters, while Hispanics also tilt to Obama, 55 percent to 41 percent.
Among white voters with a college degree, the two candidates now run even: 50 percent for Romney, and 48 percent for Obama. A month ago, Romney led by 14 points among this group. Obama has also narrowed the gap among white voters without a degree; Romney now leads, 53 percent to 45 percent, compared to a 20-point lead last month.
The poll also shows significant changes in how likely voters view each candidate. Obama is now viewed favorably by 54 percent of voters, and unfavorably by 42 percent. Last month, 50 percent had a favorable opinion of him, and 45 percent an unfavorable one.
Romney's image has taken a hit in the state. Just 41 percent of likely voters now have a favorable opinion of him, compared to 48 percent who view him unfavorably. A month ago, his image ratings tilted positive: 45 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable.
Asked which candidate would do a better job on the economy, Obama enjoys a slight edge, 51 percent to 46 percent. Obama also has the advantage on health care (54 percent to 41 percent), national security (52 percent to 44 percent), Medicare (55 percent to 40 percent), taxes (52 percent to 43 percent) and foreign policy (52 percent to 44 percent). Voters are split on which candidate would do a better job on the budget deficit, 48 percent to 46 percent.