Polls show President Obama will enter the final weekend before Election Day with a small lead in Ohio, the lynchpin state in both campaign’s pursuit of 270 electoral votes.
A CNN-ORC poll released late Friday showed Obama hitting the 50 percent mark, leading Romney, who took 47 percent support. The party identification for the survey of likely voters was 38 percent independent, 32 percent Democratic and 30 percent Republican.
Obama now leads by nearly 3 percentage points in Ohio, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
With Rasmussen now showing Romney’s lead erased, no recent poll shows Romney ahead in the Buckeye State.
In his analysis for The Guardian, polling analyst Harry Enten highlighted the importance of a candidate leading in at least one state poll, even if he or she trails in the state’s average of polls.
“The chance of every single poll getting the result incorrect in a general election is far less likely,” Enten writes. “In all presidential state contests except one since 2000, there was at least one poll where the eventual winning candidate led even as the average had him behind.”
“Candidates in this position almost never win,” Enten continues. “That's not to say the map won't look different in a few days. I believe Romney can win in Ohio and/or Wisconsin on election day. He doesn't even need to be ahead in the averages at the end of the campaign. History suggests, however, that he's got to be leading in at least one of the polls in these two contests.”
The swing toward Obama in Ohio has been swift. On Monday, the presidential race appeared to have tightened dramatically in the state, with the Rasmussen poll showing Romney overtaking Obama for the first time since May, with 50 percent support to Obama's 48.
This followed a Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio News poll from last weekend that showed the candidates tied at 49 percent.
Without Ohio, the road to the White House for Romney becomes far more difficult.
No Republican has ever lost Ohio and won the presidency. Without Ohio, Romney would have to run the table of remaining battleground states, carrying Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Florida and North Carolina have moved in Romney’s way, polls suggest, but they remain close. Polls in Virginia, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire show the candidates tied. But a growing Hispanic population in Nevada, plus Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) campaign infrastructure there, may already have put that state beyond the GOP challenger’s reach.
Still, Ohio is equally as important for Obama, and his lead there remains slim. If Romney were to hold the three Southern swing states — Florida, North Carolina and Virginia — Obama would have to carry New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada if he were to lose Ohio.
Obama and Romney both campaigned in Ohio on Friday and will return to the state for events over the weekend.