President Obama has a 5-percentage-point advantage over Mitt Romney in Ohio, thanks to a massive lead among those who say they have already voted, according to a Time magazine poll released Wednesday.
Obama takes 49 percent support over Romney at 44. Among those who say they have already voted, Obama leads by a 2-to-1 margin, 60 percent to 30 over Romney.
Obama leads by 2.1 percentage points over Romney in Ohio, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
For Obama, the Time poll is on the high side of what other recent Ohio polls have shown. According to a Suffolk University poll released Monday, Obama and Romney each took 47 percent support, but Obama leads 54-41 among those who have already voted.
The gender gap is particularly pronounced in Ohio, according to the Time poll. Obama leads Romney 56-37 among women, while Romney holds a 51-42 lead among men.
Ohio is lining up to be a toss-up state with a high likelihood of swinging the election. It's especially important for Romney, who is generally considered to have a narrower path to victory through the Electoral College. No Republican has ever lost Ohio and gone on to win the presidency.
The Obama campaign has made early voting central to its get-out-the-vote efforts. The president will cast his ballot in Illinois on Thursday. Last week, the Obama campaign circulated a memo claiming to be well ahead of Romney among early voters in the Buckeye State.
“Today we are ahead of where we were at this time against John McCain — and ahead of Mitt Romney,” national field director Jeremy Bird wrote. “Republicans are similarly talking up their ground game and early vote numbers, but their assertions rest on much shakier ground.”
The Bird memo pointed to four polls that show Obama with leads of between 19 and 52 points in Ohio among early voters, and argued the demographics and geography of those who had voted early strongly favors the president.
The Republican National Committee responded by calling the Obama campaign memo “panicked,” and argued that Republicans have been shrinking the president’s lead in Ohio early voting. “Their 20-point advantage in 2008 is now less than 7 and shrinking,” said GOP communications and research director Tim Miller in an email.
Republicans have also argued that early voting merely cannibalizes a candidate’s Election Day turnout.
Early voting has been a controversial issue in this election cycle, as Ohio's laws faced legal challenges. Last week, the Supreme Court said early voting in Ohio could continue, a ruling viewed as a major victory for the president.
Democrats initiated the legal battle over Ohio's early-voting policy after state officials decided to eliminate three days of early voting that were offered in 2008. Minorities, who traditionally favor Democrats, often take advantage of early voting.
The Time magazine poll has a 3 percent margin of error.