Latest Polls Puts Obama Ahead of Romney in Ohio and Florida

President Barack Obama holds leads in the key swing states of Ohio and Florida over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a poll released today.

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The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey of likely voters put Obama ahead of Romney in Ohio, 51 percent to 45 percent, and in Florida, 49 percent to 47 percent.

In Ohio, 52 percent of likely voters viewed Obama favorably and 45 percent viewed him unfavorably. Forty-eight percent viewed Romney unfavorably and 45 percent favorably. By 48 percent to 46 percent, they said Obama would do a better job than Romney in handling the economy.

Slideshow: The Battle for the Presidency... of Ohio?

Likely voters in Florida viewed Obama positively, 50 percent to 46 percent, as well as Romney, 48 percent to 45 percent. Forty-eight percent said Romney would do a better job handling the economy, compared with 46 percent that said Obama.

Three other surveys out this week also had Obama ahead in Ohio, a state without which a Republican has never won the presidency.

A CNN/ORC International survey out yesterday put Obama ahead of Romney, 50 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters in Ohio. Both candidates campaigned there yesterday.

Two surveys released Oct. 31 also found Obama ahead in the state. A CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll had Obama leading, 50 percent to 45 percent, and the Ohio Poll by University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research gave Obama a two-point lead, 48 percent to 46 percent.

Ohio Support

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, said Obama’s numbers in Ohio match his support there from four years ago, when he carried the state.

An Obama victory in Ohio this time will make it easier for him and harder for Romney to get the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Miringoff said.

“In most of the states, Obama runs substantially below what he got four years ago even though he may be ahead in those states,” Miringoff said. In Ohio, “clearly it has a lot to do with the whole auto bailout issue. It doesn’t mean that Obama winning Ohio gets him automatically to 270 but it gets him very close and makes it much more problematic for Romney.”

Auto Industry

One in eight Ohio jobs is connected to the automobile industry. Obama 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.

“It’s counterintuitive to think that voters in states where the industry was saved would vote for Romney and his ‘let them eat cake’ -- go bankrupt -- approach,” said Steffen W. Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames.

Romney has been criticized by officials at both General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC for ads suggesting that the companies are pushing growth in China at the expense of the U.S. Politifact.com, a non-partisan fact-checking organization, said an ad suggesting Chrysler was shifting U.S. jobs to China from Ohio “strings together facts in a way that presents a wholly inaccurate picture.”

“Romney has struggled to explain what on the surface seems like a lack of support for U.S. auto workers,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a professor of communication at Boston University. “Obama’s position is easier to understand and homes in on labor issues for many voters. The frame favors Obama.”

Voters in both states gave Obama high marks for the way he has handled Hurricane Sandy, 73 percent in Ohio and 70 percent in Florida.

“There’s no doubt that in terms of creating a different dynamic to the campaign, the president’s handling of this has gotten good reviews,” Miringoff said.

The poll of 971 likely voters in Ohio taken Oct. 31-Nov. 1 had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The poll of 1,545 likely voters in Florida taken Oct. 30-Nov. 1 had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 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.

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