Elections 2012: Obama Leads In Key State Polls but Mideast Looms

After two political conventions and heading into the post-Labor Day sprint, President Barack Obama leads Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the key battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

After two political conventions and heading into the post-Labor Day sprint, President Barack Obama leads Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the key battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of each of these three states. Photo: Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America

President Obama holds a 5-point lead over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among likely voters in Florida and Virginia, and a 7-point lead in Ohio, according to polling released Thursday evening from NBC, the Wall Street Journal and Marist.

According to NBC, Obama is ahead of Romney by five points among likely voters (including those leaning toward a particular candidate), 49 percent to 44 percent in both Florida and Virginia.

In Ohio, Obama’s lead is seven points, 50 percent to 43 percent.

The president has a 49 percent approval rating in Florida and Virginia, and 50 percent approval in Ohio, among likely voters.

“You’d rather be in Obama’s shoes than Romney’s in these three critical states,” Marist’s Lee Miringoff told NBC, cautioning that the president’s lead is not “insurmountable,” as the two candidates prepare for their first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Colorado.

“This election is far from over, and we’re not inclined to make a final call until the first debate on October 3, but this seems clear: the election is slipping away from Romney,” said Greg Valliere of Potomac Research Group which analyzes Washington for investors.

All these states – all of which Obama carried in 2008 but which George W. Bush won in 2004 – represent three of the most crucial battlegrounds in the 2012 presidential election.

Most likely voters also said they had made up their minds, with only 2 percent in each state saying their choice might change come Election Day.

However, according to Reuters, Republicans began building a strong argument against Obama for failing to stop the rise of Islamists in Egypt and Libya, where the U.S. ambassador was killed in an attack this week.

With the White House fearing further violence in the region, the president and his aides were scrambling to re-calibrate their approach to the problem. Warnings were issued to Muslim governments around the world that they would be expected to help protect U.S. interests.

All of this may simply point to a larger challenge that will endure well beyond November’s U.S. vote – an apparently growing gulf between the United States and increasingly assertive Islamist forces within the Middle East.

With the home front reasonably stable for him, Barack Obama now has one eye on the Middle East as Republicans accuse him of weakness in the face of protests at U.S. diplomatic missions over a film many Muslims consider blasphemous.

Meanwhile, Romney was accused earlier this week of being too hasty to criticize the president in the middle of a foreign crisis, as well as giving wrong information about the Obama administration’s reaction to the storming of the embassy in Egypt.

The polls also measure the key U.S. Senate contests in these three states, all of which could determine the balance of power in that chamber.

Accordinf to The Huff Post, further down the ballot, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was ahead of challenger Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) 51 percent to 37 percent, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) led state treasurer Josh Mandel 49 percent to 42 percent. Tim Kaine, a former Democratic Virginia governor and DNC chair, and George Allen, a former GOP governor and senator, were tied at 46 percent.

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