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Obama holds slight lead in three key swing states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia

at 10:58 AM ET, 05/24/2012

More and more, the 2012 presidential election is looking like it will be very, very close.

While national polling has borne this out for weeks now, perhaps more telling are new polls in a trio of major swing states that could well decide the election — Florida, Ohio and Virginia.


(AP)

President Obama holds a narrow lead in all three, according to new polling from NBC News and Marist College. But the polls also indicate Mitt Romney is well within striking distance in each state.

The Marist polls show Obama at 48 percent in all three, while Romney trails by just a few points in each.

Here’s the rundown:

Florida: Obama 48, Romney 44

Ohio: Obama 48, Romney 42

Virginia: Obama 48 , Romney 44

While Obama leads in all three states, there are some good signs for Romney.

Perhaps most notably, the former Massachusetts governor has closed the gap significantly since March in all three. The same polls back then (conducted at the height of the GOP primary) showed Obama leading all three by between 8 and 17 points.

Another good sign for Romney is that he’s now got Obama below 50 percent, which is generally thought to be the danger zone for incumbents. The logic goes like this: People know Obama very well (and Romney less so), and therefore the undecideds are likely to break in the challenger’s favor.

Obama’s approval rating in each state is just below 50 percent, though he is still in positive territory (approval higher than disapproval) in all three. In addition, voters in each state are closely split when it comes to which candidate would be a better steward of the economy — perhaps the one major follow-up question we should all be keeping an eye on in these polls.

Obama does have a significant edge, though, when it comes to favorability. The measure, which is more based on personal attributes than job performance, shows at least half of voters in each state rate the president favorably.

Romney, meanwhile, is in negative territory in Ohio and Virginia, suggesting he has some ground to make up when it comes to his personal brand. The battle over Bain Capital is the beginning of that effort to define Romney’s candidacy.

Democrats can also take heart from another aspect of the poll: It shows them holding leads in key Senate races in each state.

In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) leads Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) 43 percent to 38 percent. In Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) leads state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) 47 percent to 34 percent, and in Virginia, former Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine leads former senator George Allen (R) 46 percent to 40 percent.

Those three states — and Virginia in particular — appear to be key to Democrats’ ability to hold control of the Senate. (Though we should note that it was the second poll today to show Nelson slipping a bit in his race.)

If Republicans win any of these seats, they’ve got a great chance to reclaim the upper chamber.

 
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