WASHINGTON -- New polls released Thursday by Quinnipiac University showed President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by such narrow margins in Ohio and Florida that the pollsters characterized the two contests as "essentially tied" and "too close to call."
But when combined with other recent polls, the results show Obama running slightly better now than at a comparable points in the 2008 election.
The Quinnipiac poll in Ohio shows Obama edging Romney by 2 percentage points (44 to 42 percent), a slightly closer margin than in three other polls conducted in late April. The surveys by Fox News, Rasmussen Reports and Purple Strategies all give Obama slightly bigger leads, ranging from 4 to 6 points. As of this writing, the HuffPost Pollster chart, based on all of the Ohio polls, gives Obama a 4-point lead (45.7 to 41.7 percent).
The Quinnipiac poll in Florida finds Romney edging Obama by a single percentage point (44 to 43 percent), very close to the margins found by recent Rasmussen and Purple Strategies surveys. The HuffPost Pollster chart for Florida, which also factors in a handful of polls conducted earlier in April that showed Obama doing slightly better, gives the president a 1.3 percentage point advantage (45.7 to 44.4 percent).
While the aggregate of all recent polls shows Florida to be a true toss-up and Ohio leaning slightly to Obama, the president's current standing is slightly better than at this point four years ago. According to the Pollster charts for 2008, summarized in the table below, McCain led by 5.5 points in Florida and just 0.4 percentage points in Ohio at this point four years ago.
Recent polls also have given Obama a narrow lead in Virginia, another critical battleground in 2008. At this point four years ago, the two candidates were nearly tied, though McCain had a slight advantage.
Of course, the Democratic nomination battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton raged on into early May 2008. Obama did not clinch the nomination until early June, and his national poll numbers against John McCain got a significant boost when Clinton exited the race and endorsed his candidacy June 7.
By mid-June, Pollster's national chart showed Obama with a 4.5 percentage point lead over McCain nationally (47.1 to 42.6 percent), which is slightly better than Obama's current advantage over Mitt Romney (47.0 to 45.2 percent, as of this writing).
In Ohio, Florida and Virginia, however, as shown in the table below, Obama's current margin over Romney is still a net 2 to 5 percentage points better than where it stood against McCain in mid-June 2008.
It is still very early in the general election campaign and new surveys are released continually. The polling snapshots in these battleground states may look different in a few weeks than they do today, but for now, a close race nationally is translating into close contests in the critical swing states.
Nonetheless, Obama's current standing in three key swing states looks slightly better now than it did in June 2008, just after he clinched the Democratic nomination.