Gallup: Romney's lead among likely voters expands to six points

Mitt Romney picked up two points overnight among likely voters and now holds a 6-percentage point lead nationally over President Obama, according to Gallup’s daily tracking poll.

Romney takes 51 percent support against 45 percent for Obama in the Gallup poll of likely voters, and also leads 48 to 46 among registered voters.

The survey is a rolling seven-day average through Oct. 16 and does not include polling data taken after Tuesday night's debate in New York. 

Gallup only began tracking likely voters earlier this month. The 6-point margin is Romney’s biggest lead yet in the survey, and comes less than three weeks before the election.

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Gallup polls only survey registered voters early in the cycle, but as Election Day nears, it prods for more information from voters to determine the likelihood that a registered voter will end up casting a ballot. 

Many believe surveys of likely voters are more accurate than those that only survey registered voters. 

However, Gallup noted that sometimes, as in 2008, “there was only a marginal difference between the vote choices of registered voters and likely voters,” while other times, as in 1996, “there was a much more substantial difference.”

Democrats are hopeful Obama’s fiery debate performance last night will be enough to blunt Romney’s momentum. The first debate significantly altered the course of the race and propelled Romney to his first national leads of the cycle.

The Gallup poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The daily tracking poll is subject to day-to-day fluctuations and could be an outlier. Romney leads Obama by less than 1 percentage point, 47.6 to 47, in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls. 

Polls in the battleground states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the election favored Obama earlier in the cycle, but have tightened along with the national surveys.

Republicans are increasingly optimistic that Romney will win Virginia, Florida and North Carolina.

And Real Clear Politics recently moved Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from “lean Obama” to “toss-up,” although Romney still has his work cut out for him in those states. 

Other states, such as Iowa, Colorado and Ohio, are true toss-ups right now.

— This story was updated at 2:20 p.m.