Poll: Romney, Obama tied at 49-49 in Ohio

A new poll shows President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat in the key battleground of Ohio.

A new Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio News Organization poll released late Saturday shows both candidates receiving 49 percent support from likely voters in the Buckeye state.

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The new numbers represent a slight drop for Obama, who tallied 51 percent support in the same poll’s September survey.

One in 5 said they had already cast their ballots, with the president well ahead among those voters.

The recently completed three presidential debates appear to have slightly boosted Romney, with 23 percent saying they made them more likely to vote for the GOP nominee, with 14 percent saying they pushed them to back Obama. Sixty-two percent, though, said the debates wouldn’t impact their vote.

The poll shows that 60 percent of Romney supporters say they strongly favor him, with 17 percent backing him because they dislike Obama. 

Sixty-three percent of Obama’s supporters say they strongly favor the president, with 14 backing him because they dislike his challenger.

Voters give Romney the edge on the economy, with 51 percent saying he would do a better job to 45 tapping Obama. On foreign policy, 50 percent say Obama would better handle the issue to 46 percent preferring Romney.

Forty-eight percent say the Obama administration’s bailout of the auto industry will not make a difference in their vote, with 29 percent saying they are more likely to back the president and 21 less likely.

The administration has made its support for the bailout a central part of their message in the state.

Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are crucial in the election, as no GOP nominee has ever won the White House without capturing the state.

Both campaigns have devoted significant time and resources in Ohio, with Romney slated to visit the key battleground on Sunday along with his running mate Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Trail 2016: The fallout Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears Lawmakers clash over race claims in Flint aid delay MORE (R-Wis.). Obama is headed to a rally in Youngstown on Monday.

Other polls taken in the state show a similarly tight race, but with Obama enjoying a slight edge.  

A CNN/Opinion Research poll puts Obama up 4, with 50 percent support to Romney’s 46. A Purple Strategies poll, though, gives Obama only a 2-point lead at 46-44, similar to an ARG poll which also puts the president up two, at 49-47. 

A survey from Republican-affiliated Rasmussen last week put the candidates in a 48-48 tie. 

With both campaigns knotted at 49 in the Enquirer/Ohio News poll, Eric Rademacher, co-director of the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, predicted the ultimate winner may be the campaign with the most effective ground-game operation. 

“Absent any more twists and turns, a remarkable presidential campaign may end with the campaign that executes the best 'ground game' narrowly delivering Ohio for the next president of the United States,” said Rademacher, in a report announcing the poll results.

The Enquirer/Ohio News poll was conducted from Oct. 18 to 23 and has a 3-point margin of error.