Race tightens for swing states

Mitt Romney’s overwhelming debate victory has tightened the presidential race in the dozen or so battleground states that will determine the winner of the election.


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To reach the Oval Office, Romney must win back a number of the states won by President Bush in 2004 but President Obama in 2008 —or win back states like Pennsylvania that have been won by Democratic presidential candidates the past several cycles.

Here’s a look at where the swing-state battles stand ahead of Obama and Romney’s second debate showdown on Tuesday night.

Florida (29)

Romney enjoys a two-percentage-point advantage in the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls after crushing Obama in their initial debate. He had previously trailed the president by 1.6 percentage points.

But it’s possible Romney’s numbers are being boosted by one poll. The Tampa Bay Times released a survey Thursday that showed him up by 7 percentage points, a finding the looks like an outlier compared to other polls.

The Tampa poll showed Obama’s 11-point lead among independents swing to a 13 point advantage for Romney. In addition, Hispanic voters in the poll favored Romney 46 to 44 percent over Obama, despite the president’s more than 50-percentage point lead among the group nationally.

Obama campaign adviser David Plouffe dismissed the poll, telling the Tampa Bay Times that “it’s impossible for us to be at 44 in Florida,” and arguing that the campaign believes it will outperform its 2008 support among Hispanics. Plouffe said Obama’s campaign expects to take win at least 60 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Florida is must win territory for Romney given the uphill climb he faces in other swing states.

Ohio (18)

Obama has only a 1.5 percent lead in the RCP average, a sign things could be tightening.

The president has been ahead in Ohio for months and may have lost a chance to lock-up the state with his debate performance. It was thought before the debate that Romney might have to focus his resources on other states.

Democrats are hopeful that gains made early in the cycle, when Obama effectively portrayed Romney as an out-of-touch corporate raider to the state’s blue collar voters, is enough to withstand the GOP challenger’s late charge — particularly since voting has already started.

North Carolina (15)

Even before the debate, North Carolina was the lone toss-up swing state where Romney looked to have a real advantage, and things haven’t changed.

On Oct. 4, Romney led by just under 1 percentage point, according to the RCP average. Romney now leads by 3.3 percent in North Carolina.

Obama only took North Carolina by 15,000 votes in 2008, despite his overwhelming general election victory over Sen. John McCain (R-Ari.) . He’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that victory even after Charlotte, N.C., hosted the Democratic convention.

Virginia (13)

Obama held a nearly 4-point advantage in Virginia in the RCP average heading into the debate, but that’s been completely wiped out and the candidates are now tied. In addition, the last two polls in the state show Romney with 1 and 2 point leads.

Virginia was a solidly red state before Obama became the first Democrat since 1964 to win it in 2008. Still, he won convincingly, taking 53 percent support over McCain at 46, and there have been steady signs that the state is becoming more favorable to Democrats.

Wisconsin (10)

After Romney selected home-state favorite Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the GOP ticket spiked in Wisconsin, but Obama has since regained his lead.

But Obama’s lead has been greatly diminished in the wake of the debate, falling from 8 points in the RCP average to 2 points.

Colorado (9)

Colorado is the most fickle swing state for Democrats, who were hopeful the state’s popular Democratic governor, concentrated pockets of social liberalism and rising Hispanic population had flipped the state permanently in their favor.

But Colorado has strong independent and libertarian streaks, and appears to be headed for a photo finish.

Obama held his biggest recent lead of 3 percentage points in the RCP average heading into the debate.

Romney has since inched ahead of Obama, although by less than one percent, with recent polls split and showing the candidates in a statistical dead heat.

Iowa (6), Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4)

With the race essentially tied, any of these three small delegate prizes could tip the race either way.

Obama presently has small leads in all three, although Romney is within the margin of error.

Both Nevada and Iowa went for Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008. New Hampshire has gone for the Democratic candidate the last two elections, but went for Bush in 2000.

Pennsylvania (20) and Michigan (16)

Obama appeared to be cruising to victories in both states before the debate, but things have tightened.

A win by Romney would dramatically alter the race and greatly increase his chances of winning.

That said, at this point a victory by Romney would be a surprise.

No Republican has won either state since President George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Obama once had an eight-point average lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls in Pennsylvania, but now has only a 4.5 percent advantage.

The president had a commanding 10-point lead in Michigan before the debate, but Romney since then has closed to within 4 points in the RCP average.

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