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Obama Leading In Ohio, Poll Finds

Brian Heath paints a Barack Obama campaign logo on Gary Lahman's garage just outside of Bowling Green, Ohio.
Brian Heath paints a Barack Obama campaign logo on Gary Lahman's garage just outside of Bowling Green, Ohio. (By J.d. Pooley -- Getty Images)

Dessie Knight, 74, of Quaker City, by contrast, questions Obama's experience on the economy, and sides with McCain on the issue. Overall in the poll, just over half of voters said Obama has enough experience to serve effectively as president.

The unemployment rate in Ohio hit 7.4 percent in August, among the highest in the nation and the highest of any battleground state other than Michigan, territory the McCain campaign effectively ceded last week by pulling out its resources.

Obama lost the Ohio Democratic primary to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) by 10 percentage points, prompting widespread concerns among Democrats that he would have a tough time winning the state.

The new data show Obama doing as well as McCain at holding on to partisans, despite any lingering disgruntlement over the Democratic nomination battle: Ninety-one percent of Democrats back Obama, while 90 percent of Republicans support McCain. But support for Obama does lag a bit among white Democratic women relative to Kerry's support in 2004. And among all Democrats who would have preferred Clinton to be atop the party's ticket, 14 percent support McCain.

Clinton holdouts do not tip the balance, however, in part because Democrats outnumber Republicans among Ohio voters, a reversal from 2004.

Many of those who described themselves as Republicans four years ago now appear to identify as independents, boosting McCain to a tie among this key voting bloc. Kerry won independents by nearly 20 points.

Another group of crucial swing voters is political moderates, and they break for Obama by 22 points, similar to Kerry's margin from 2004. McCain's choice of Palin as his No. 2 appears to be a problem for him among these voters.

Nearly four in 10 moderates in the poll said they were less apt to vote for McCain because of the Palin pick, double the proportion drawn to him as a result. By contrast, Biden attracts three times as many moderates to Obama as he pushes away.

Peggy Burkett, 52, an undecided voter from Youngstown, for one, said Biden "may tip the balance" toward Obama. But she added: "I probably won't know who I'll support until I get to the precinct on Election Day."

Another wild card in Ohio is high public doubt about the vote count on Nov. 4. Only about a third of voters are "very confident" that ballots in the state will be counted accurately, with African Americans much less likely than whites to be so confident in the tally. Voters in Cuyahoga express the highest levels of skepticism of the count, much higher than the level of concern elsewhere.

The poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 3 to 5 among a random sample of 1,010 adults in Ohio. The margin of sampling error for the full poll is plus or minus three percentage points; it is 3.5 points for the sample of 772 likely voters.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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