New battleground-state polls show slight movement toward Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in five of the states that could prove pivotal in the battle for the White House, and in the wake of last week's presidential debate, Romney and President Obama are locked in close races in key swing states.
The polls, all conducted after the debate and released early on Thursday, show a tight race across most of the states, though they also indicate that there has been little relative movement from surveys conducted prior to the debate:
-- Colorado: A new CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll shows Romney inching in front of Obama, 48 percent to 47 percent, well within the poll's margin of error.
-- Florida: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows a tied race, with Obama leading Romney, 48 percent to 47 percent.
-- Ohio: Obama remains ahead of Romney in the Buckeye State, 51 percent to 45 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.
-- Virginia: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows the two candidates virtually tied, 48 percent for Romney, 47 percent for Obama. But a CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll shows Obama leading, 51 percent to 46 percent.
-- Wisconsin: Obama leads in a CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll, 50 percent to 47 percent, within the poll's margin of error.
"The shifts are too small to measure," said Quinnipiac's Peter Brown of the three surveys his institute conducted for CBS News and The New York Times, "but the races in Wisconsin and Colorado are now too close to call."
Whereas Virginia represented Obama's strongest state in the Quinnipiac polls, Marist found the opposite.
"Among the three battleground states we're looking at today -- Virginia, Florida, and Ohio -- Virginia is Romney's best state," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Poll.
The CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University Colorado poll shows no significant movement. In mid-September, Obama led by a single point, 48 percent to 47 percent.
Obama wins 94 percent of Democrats, compared to Romney's 89 percent among Republicans. Romney holds a slight edge among independents, 49 percent to 45 percent; independents make up 39 percent of the likely voters who responded to the poll.
"The key to Mitt Romney's strength in Colorado is independent voter support," said Quinnipiac's Brown.
Romney has reestablished his advantage on the economy, with likely voters favoring him when asked who would do a better job on the issue, 52 percent to 44 percent. In early August, voters thought Romney would do the better job by a 10-point margin, but that gap had closed to within a single point in mid-September. Among independent voters, Romney leads on the economy by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll in Florida is unchanged from immediately before the debate, when Obama led Romney, 47 percent to 46 percent. Each candidate gained a point, an insignificant addition.
Obama wins 93 percent of Democrats, while Romney takes 90 percent of Republicans. Independents tilt to Romney, 48 percent to 43 percent. Democrats made up 37 percent of Marist's likely-voter pool, Republicans 33 percent, and independents 29 percent.
The candidates run roughly even among high-enthusiasm voters, a 2-point Romney advantage, and among voters who strongly support their candidate, a 1-point Romney lead.
Romney leads among white voters, 57 percent to 38 percent. That exceeds Sen. John McCain's performance among whites in 2008, according to exit polls, when he won white voters 56 percent to 42 percent.
Romney also runs stronger than McCain among Hispanic voters, trailing by only two points; Obama won Latinos by 15 points in 2008. But Latinos make up a larger share of Marist's likely-voter pool, 20 percent, than they did in the 2008 electorate, when they comprised 14 percent of voters.
By a 3-point margin, voters think Romney will do a better job handling the economy, 48 percent to 45 percent. That compares to a one-point Romney lead on the issue before the debate.
Obama's firewall in the Buckeye State emerges from a difficult week mostly unaffected. His 6-point lead in Ohio is a tick down from his 8-point advantage before the debate, though the change is not statistically significant.
Part of Obama's advantage in Ohio is built from voters who have already cast their ballots or say they will before Election Day. Obama leads among the 35 percent of self-reported early voters, 60 percent to 38 percent.
"It's all about early voting for Obama in Ohio," said Marist's Miringoff. "Among those who will vote on Election Day, there is only a two-point Obama-Romney difference."
The other factor contributing to Obama's enduring advantage in Ohio is a surge of Democratic identification. Democrats make up 40 percent of Marist's likely-voter pool, compared to just 29 percent for Republicans. As a result, Romney actually leads among independents, 49 percent to 41 percent. Marist does not weight its polls according to party identification, for adults, registered voters, or likely voters.
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