President Barack Obama has built narrow leads over Republican rival Mitt Romney in two critical swing states, but slipped in a third, according to recent polling.
In Florida, Obama leads Romney 45 percent to 41 percent, and in Ohio his lead is 47 percent to 38 percent, according to the most recent survey by Quinnipiac University. The two men were essentially tied in both states in a similar survey released at the beginning of May.
In Pennsylvania, Obama holds a six point lead over Romney, compared to a nine point lead he held in May.
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"If [Obama] can keep those leads in all three of these key swing states through Election Day, he would be virtually assured of re-election," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement released with the poll results. "Of course, the election is more than four months away, which is a lifetime in politics."
Obama also leads Romney 47 percent to 44 percent in a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey also released Wednesday.
Voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania all gave the president higher marks on likeability than Romney. But more Florida voters think Romney will do better on the economy than Obama, though they are tied when it comes to which candidate voters think will improve their own bottom line. Ohio voters give Obama the edge on the economy and think his re-election would improve their economic future compared to a Romney presidency. Voters in Pennsylvania are essentially split between Obama and Romney when it comes to their ability to lift the national economy and their own financial future.
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"For much of the last year, more voters in these swing states have said Romney would do a better job on the economy. That advantage has largely disappeared, at least for now," Brown said.
The Quinnipiac survey also found that most voters in each state approve of the Obama's announcement that it would defer deportations of some young illegal immigrants brought to the United States through no fault of their own, particularly in Florida.
"In Florida, on the heels of the president's order that will prevent the deportation of some younger illegal immigrants, he holds a big lead among Hispanic voters," Brown said. "Voters in all three states voice strong support for the president's mini 'Dream Act' immigration order and they say the president would be better than Romney handling immigration."
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Overall, the polling reflects existing conventional wisdom about the race – the president is personally popular, but must convince voters that they can trust him to improve the economy despite its prolonged struggles under his presidency. The burden is also on Romney to convince voters he understands and empathizes with their economic problems and is motivated to improve the entire economy for all and not just the wealthy.
The movement in Florida and Ohio may be tied to extensive advertising by the Obama campaign attacking Romney on his business record, as many voters are still developing their opinion of the former Massachusetts governor. Obama, as the incumbent president, is already largely defined in voters' minds.
The polls have margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.