Obama inches ahead in key voter polls

As the clock ticks down to Election Day and the number of undecided voters shrinks, President Obama is gaining over Mitt Romney in key polls. But overall, the race remains way too close to call.

Ed Andrieski/AP
President Barack Obama waves after speaking at a campaign rally in Golden, Colo. Sept. 13.

It’s been a rough week for both President Obama and Mitt Romney,

Mr. Obama has had to deal with anti-US protests around the Muslim world, including the murder of American diplomats in Libya. Mr. Romney took flak from Republicans as well as Democrats for what critics said were intemperate remarks about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which seemed obviously aimed to gain political advantage at a time when national unity was called for.

Obama has more responsibility than his challenger here – both for what happened in Libya and for how to respond. It could be a defining moment for his re-election bid.

But a snapshot of where things stand in the presidential campaign 51 days before the election should bring some cheer to the White House, at least according to the most recent polls.

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As the Monitor’s Liz Marlantes reported Friday, Obama’s post-convention bounce apparently endures, most significantly in key battleground states.

According to a new set of NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Obama is now leading Romney by 7 points in Ohio and 5 points in Florida and Virginia, and the RealClearPolitics polling average right now has Obama up by 4.2 percentage points in Ohio, 1.3 points in Florida, and 0.4 points in Virginia.

A Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Saturday has Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 39 percent, reports Politico.

“Pennsylvania Democrats are more consolidated behind Obama, with 77 percent in favor of Obama and 13 percent in favor of Romney, while Republicans are 18 percent in favor of Obama and 71 percent in favor of Romney,” according to the poll press release. “Following the conventions, Obama’s favorability rating has increased by 3 points, while his unfavorable rating has decreased by 6 points. Opinions of Romney have improved slightly following the conventions, but he still has a net negative personal popularity rating among voters in state, with 46 percent favorable/48 percent unfavorable rating.”

Politico also reports on an internal Republican poll that has Romney behind by 4 points in Ohio, not as bad as his 7-point deficit in the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls but behind nonetheless.

“The numbers underline Romney’s longstanding problems in Ohio, where he’s taken a beating from Obama’s campaign and liberal groups,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Martin. “But it’s actually a sign of the depth of Romney’s hole in the state that the results were greeted favorably by Republicans. Polling in Ohio before the conventions last month showed Romney with an even larger deficit, closer to double-digits.”

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters has Obama widening his advantage to 7 points, a gap that’s been increasing since the Democratic convention. "What that really means is that Obama is in good shape," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

“Thursday's online poll also found far more registered voters preferred the incumbent's policies and approach on taxes (41 percent picked Obama, 30 percent Romney), healthcare (44 percent Obama, 28 percent Romney) and Social Security (39 percent Obama, 27 percent Romney),” Reuters reported. “Asked which of the candidates had a better plan, policy or approach to the war on terrorism, more registered voters again favored Obama: 39 percent to Romney's 25 percent.” (Note that the poll was taken two days after the attack on the US consulate in Libya.)

One sleeper poll that may have particular importance given the tension between the US and Israel over drawing a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities: Obama has extended his lead among registered Jewish voters to 70-25 percent, according to unreleased Gallup daily tracking poll data reported by BuzzFeed.

“The data, obtained through a Democratic source, shows Obama up from leading 64-29 in polling this spring – and on par with his 2008 performance at this point when he led 69-25 over John McCain in Gallup polling,” reports BuzzFeed.

Two daily tracking polls out Saturday show just how close the race is: Gallup had Obama up by a point while Rasmussen gives Romney a 2-point edge.

Meanwhile, the number of undecided voters continues to shrink to just 5-6 percent as people become more fully engaged with the campaign now that the conventions are over and Election Day approaches.

Stay tuned for regular updates.

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