06/26/2012 07:27 pm ET

Obama Battleground States Lead Expands Over Romney, Poll Shows

WASHINGTON -- NBC and the Wall Street Journal are out with their monthly poll, a gold standard of sorts for measurements of the electorate's temperature. The top line numbers don't jump out as particularly newsworthy. President Barack Obama enjoys a statistically insignificant lead of three percentage points over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, 47 percent to 44 percent.

Backers of the president could argue that holding steady is, in some respects, a victory, as he's sustained a fairly steady stream of bad news on the economy. Last month, Obama was up, 47 percent to 43 percent.

But the revelation in the poll is found in the swing-state numbers. Among voters polled from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, Obama leads Romney, 50 percent to 42 percent. That number continues a positive trend for the president. Two months ago, the swing-state number was 47 percent to 45 percent. One month ago it was 48 percent to 42 percent.

What's to account for the change? The crew at NBC points to this:

Among swing-state respondents, 18 percent say what they’ve seen and heard about Romney’s business record gives them a more positive opinion about the Republican candidate, versus 33 percent who say it’s more negative. That’s compared to the national 23-to-28 percent margin on this question.

As a Democratic source summarizes: "Can’t ask for much stronger proof of Bain attacks working than this."

There are some caveats here. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- states often associated as Democratic-leaning -- are being counted as battlegrounds.

Also, for Obama's team in Chicago, the job situation is still a soft spot. While 51 percent of respondents say the economy is recovering (compared with 44 percent who say it is not), and 60 percent believe Obama inherited the current conditions (versus 26 percent who say he is responsible for them), not everyone is feeling sympathetic to the White House. Forty-three percent of respondents said May unemployment numbers were reason for optimism; 52 percent said they were not.

Finally, there is this totally irrelevant but slightly humorous data point: 1 percent of respondents believe the president is a Mormon, while 8 percent believe he is a Muslim.