Obama Holds Lead in Ohio as Florida, Virginia Tighten

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Peter Cook reports on the differing ways Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are returning to campaign mode following Hurricane Sandy as we are less than a week away from the 2012 presidential election. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's "In The Loop."

President Barack Obama has a five- point lead in Ohio while Republican challenger Mitt Romney has all but erased deficits in Florida and Virginia, according to a poll of likely voters in three swing states released today.

The tightening of the race in competitive states mirrors a national trend in which several recent polls show the race tied or one candidate ahead by a single percentage point.

A CBS Times/New York Times/Quinnipiac University survey released today gave Obama 50 percent and Romney 45 percent in Ohio, a state without which a Republican has ever won the White House. Obama led by six to 10 points in earlier CBS/Times/Quinnipiac polls.

In Florida, Obama had a one-point advantage, 48 percent to 47 percent, after leading by nine points a month earlier. His 49 percent to 47 percent edge in Virginia is less than half the five-point spread found in a poll earlier this month.

“After being subjected to what seems like a zillion dollars’ worth of television ads and personal attention from the two candidates reminiscent of a high-school crush, the key swing states of Florida and Virginia are too close to call with the election only days away,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut.

Ohio Poll

A separate survey, the Ohio Poll by University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research, gave Obama a two- point lead in the state, 48 percent to 46 percent. The survey of 1,182 likely voters, released today, was conducted Oct. 25-30 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Ohio, Florida and Virginia are among the battlegrounds where both campaigns have concentrated their efforts and where both say the presidential race will be decided.

Nationally, the race is deadlocked, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, which gave each candidate 49 percent. The Oct. 27-30 poll of 1,288 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey also showed that 78 percent of those polled yesterday said Obama’s response to Atlantic superstorm Sandy was either good or excellent, compared with 44 percent who said the same about Romney. The question was asked of 344 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Favorability Ratings

The improvement of Romney’s standing in some polls tracks an increase in the percentage of voters who have a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor. In the CBS/Times/Quinnipiac poll, he is in positive territory for the first time in Florida, with 48 percent viewing him favorably and 47 percent unfavorably. In Virginia, he has a 49 percent favorable rating and a 46 percent unfavorable one, his biggest positive spread to date in the poll. In Ohio a plurality still view him unfavorably, 48 percent, compared with 46 percent who view him favorably.

Majorities of voters in all three states view Obama favorably, 51 percent in Florida and 52 percent in Ohio and Virginia.

Voters in all three states cited the economy as the top concern. Romney had an edge over Obama on that issue in two of the states, 49 percent to 47 percent in Florida and 50 percent to 46 percent in Virginia.

Obama held a 49 percent to 48 percent advantage on the economy in Ohio, where one in eight jobs is connected to the auto industry.

Bailout Issue

The president backed the use of government funds to rescue General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, while Romney was proposing that they go through bankruptcy with private funding. Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of AutoNation Inc. (AN), the largest U.S. auto-dealer group, has said it was a “fantasy” that private financing was available.

Romney is running an ad in Ohio suggesting that Chrysler plans to move production of Jeeps to China from the U.S.

Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne in a letter to employees yesterday said “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand,” and Obama put out an ad calling Romney’s spot dishonest.

Chrysler, majority-owned by Fiat SpA of Italy, is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Toledo, Ohio. It also is deciding whether to expand into China, the world’s largest auto market.

Economic Outlook

By 37 percent to 25 percent in Florida, 52 percent to 17 percent in Ohio and 39 percent to 19 percent in Virginia, voters in the CBS/Times/Quinnipiac poll said their state’s economy was getting better rather than worse, and at least two-thirds in each state who said the economy was improving said Obama deserved a lot or some of the credit.

Likely voters said Obama would do a better job than Romney on helping the middle class by 51 percent to 44 percent in Florida, 54 percent to 42 percent in Ohio and 52 percent to 44 percent in Virginia.

“In general, voters prefer Obama on a majority of issues and characteristics and rate the two candidates roughly even on the big one -- the economy,” Brown said. “Likely voters think Obama better understands their needs and problems, but more voters see Romney as a strong leader.”

The Oct. 23-28 telephone surveys of 1,073 likely voters in Florida and 1,074 likely voters in Virginia had margins of error of three percentage points; the Ohio survey of 1,110 likely voters had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Wisconsin Race

A poll by Marquette University’s law school in Milwaukee put Obama ahead of Romney in Wisconsin, 51 percent to 43 percent. The state is the home of the Republican vice- presidential nominee, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan. Obama led by one point, 49 percent to 48 percent, two weeks ago. The Oct. 25-28 survey of 1,243 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Separately, a national CBS News/New York Times poll taken before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast put Obama ahead, 48 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters. Obama led Romney 49 percent to 46 percent in the poll last month.

In the CBS/New York Times poll, Obama was ahead among women, 52 percent to 44 percent, while Romney led among men, 51 percent to 44 percent.

Romney held a 51 percent to 45 percent edge on which candidate would do a better job on the economy and jobs, and a 54 percent to 39 percent advantage on the budget deficit.

Jobless Rate

While the nation’s unemployment rate slid to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest level since Obama took office in January 2009, it was the first time the rate had fallen below 8 percent in 44 months.

The national CBS/Times survey found voters, by 51 percent to 39 percent, supporting Obama over Romney on abortion rights. Romney has called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that privacy rights entitle women to choose to have an abortion without restriction in their first trimester of pregnancy.

Obama also had an edge on handling Medicare, 51 percent to 42 percent. Ryan has sponsored House-passed legislation that would replace traditional Medicare for future recipients 10 years from now with vouchers to buy private insurance or a government plan with a cap on expenditures.

The poll of 563 likely voters taken Oct. 25-28 had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net. STOFL1 US <Equity> Z US <Equity> D US <Equity> AN US <Equity> GM US <Equity>

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