Poll: Obama lead in Va. shrinks to smallest of election cycle

President Obama's lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Virginia is now stands at just 3 points, the lowest that Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling has found this election cycle.

The president leads Romney 50-47 percent, according to the firm, down 2 points from a 51-46 lead three weeks prior.

Romney's progress is likely due to his strong performance in Wednesday's debate, with voters agreeing that Romney was the victor. Virginia voters picked Romney as the debate winner by a 61-28 percent margin, with independents giving him a stronger 71-17 percent edge. 

Romney also showed a 10-point gain in his favorability ratings, moving from net-negative to net-positive in the poll, further evidence that he benefited from his performance on the debate stage.

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The debate also seems to have boosted Republicans and discouraged Democrats in the state. While Democrats held a 73-63 percent voter enthusiasm advantage last month, now the parties are tied at 70 percent each. 

Still, the poll found that Romney has trouble spots in Virginia — especially among female voters and minorities. Obama leads Romney 52-44 percent among women and 59-34 percent among non-whites, while Romney leads Obama among men just 49-48 percent.

The Republican nominee is able to keep pace in Virginia because of his 55-43 percent advantage among seniors. But the president holds an equally commanding 59-38 percent lead among Virginians under 45 years old.

Romney also benefited from the dwindling prospects of former Rep. Virgil Goode. The popular conservative, who has served both as a Democrat and a Republican, was threatening to siphon off Romney votes in Virginia with his third-party presidential bid. The latest survey shows him pulling just 1 percent of the vote, down significantly from earlier in the year.