WASHINGTON -- The campaigns for both President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney could find something to like in a new batch of polls released Thursday in three key battleground states.
The polls show Romney getting a small but consistent "bump" in Wisconsin, the home state of his vice-presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan. They also suggest a slight narrowing in Florida, a state generally considered to be a "must-win" for the Romney campaign. But Obama appears to have held his advantage in Ohio, and, perhaps more importantly, the polls find that voters largely reject the Medicare overhaul plan proposed by the Romney-Ryan ticket.
The best news for the Romney campaign comes in Wisconsin, where a new poll conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute for CBS News and The New York Times shows Obama leading by a razor-thin margin (49 to 47 percent) that is too small to be considered statistically meaningful. A Quinnipiac/CBS/Times survey conducted earlier in the month gave Obama a slightly larger, six percentage point lead (51 to 45 percent).
While the narrowing of the race indicated by the Quinnipiac/CBS/Times poll is small, it is consistent with findings from three other surveys released in the last week, all of which have shown small, single-digit shifts in Romney's direction since the Ryan announcement.
Three of the recent Wisconsin polls show Obama holding a narrow advantage, while two give Romney a one-point edge. When combined into a single set of trend lines on the HuffPost Pollster chart, the polls show Obama leading Romney in Wisconsin by 2.9 percentage points (49.0 to 46.1 percent), a margin close enough to move the state into the toss-up category on HuffPost's Election Dashboard map.
In Florida, the Quinnipiac/CBS/Times poll shows Obama leading Romney by three percentage points (49 to 46 percent), a slightly narrower margin than the president enjoyed in their previous poll earlier in the month, which gave him a six-point advantage (51 to 45 percent).
That apparent narrowing is consistent with the pattern indicated by other recent public polls in Florida. Five have been released since the Ryan selection and all but the Quinnipiac/CBS/Times survey show Romney with more support than Obama. When combined into HuffPost's Florida Chart, they show a near tie (Obama 46.3 percent, Romney 46.2 percent). One of those new polls, conducted using automated methods, is a clear statistical outlier showing Romney with a double-digit lead, but excluding it increases Obama's margin on the chart by just 0.6 percent.
News for the Obama campaign is better in Ohio, where two new polls show the president maintaining a narrow lead. The Quinnipiac/CBS/Times survey shows him leading Romney by six percentage points (50 to 44 percent), while a new University of Cincinnati Ohio Poll released on Thursday morning gives Obama a three point advantage (49 to 46 percent).
Two recent automated surveys by other organizations had suggested a slightly closer race, but the HuffPost Pollster Ohio chart shows little change and gives Obama a three point advantage over Romney in the Buckeye state (47.8 to 44.8 percent).
The Obama campaign will likely also take heart in responses to questions on the Quinnipiac/CBS/Times surveys about Romney and Ryan's plan to alter Medicare, the federal government program that provides medical care to seniors. By margins of roughly two-to-one, voters in all three states rejected changing Medicare, for those now age 55 or under, "to a system in which the government would provide seniors with a fixed amount of money toward purchasing private health insurance or Medicare." The question did not mention that Romney and Ryan support this change.
The poll found that just 28 percent of respondents in Florida and 27 percent in Ohio agreed that Medicare should be altered. In Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, only 32 percent agreed with the proposed changes.
More than 75 percent of voters in all three states said the issue of Medicare would play an important role in their vote, with about the same number saying its benefits were worth its costs to taxpayers. Obama was more trusted to handle Medicare, with voters preferring him over Romney by 10 points in Ohio, 9 points in Wisconsin, and 8 points in Florida.
Voters reflexively oppose the notion of cuts to the popular program. Slightly more than a third in each state said they would not support any reductions to Medicare to reduce the budget deficit, while 48 percent in Florida and Ohio and 47 percent in Wisconsin said they would support minor reductions. About 10 percent expressed support for major reductions.
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said on CNN last Sunday that losing on Medicare was "not a concern" for the campaign.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a Quinnipiac/CBS/Times poll showed Obama had 54 percent support in Wisconsin. The correct figure is 51 percent.
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