COLUMBUS — A pair of new polls released today both show Democratic President Obama leading Republican Mitt Romney in the critical Ohio vote, but they differ on how wide that lead is.
The latest Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Poll shows the presidential race in Ohio to be locked exactly where it was last month, indicating no Romney bump here for picking U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, as his running mate.
Mr. Obama leads with 50 percent of the potential vote to the Massachusetts governor’s 44 percent, just outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. The poll questioned1,253 likely Buckeye voters.
The poll’s surveys of Wisconsin and Florida also have Mr. Obama in the lead there, but in tighter races — 49 percent to 47 percent in Wisconsin and 49 percent to 46 percent in Florida. Both are within the poll’s margin of error and suggest that the Ryan pick has benefited Mr. Romney in those states.
A separate, smaller Ohio Poll, conducted by the University of Cincinnati, has Mr. Obama up 49 percent to 46 percent over Mr. Romney, well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 points. This poll questioned 847 likely voters.
Both polls demonstrate that voters have largely already taken sides, leaving a small percentage left to persuade between now and Nov. 6. For instance, the Ohio Poll shows that just 4 percent of voters declared themselves to be either undecided or voting for another candidate, although 13 percent of those who are currently aligned with one camp or the other say they could yet be convinced to switch sides.
The competing polls today also have U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown leading his Republican challenger, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, but they again show different pictures of how tight that race is. The Quinnipiac Poll has Mr. Brown up by 7 points, 48 percent to 41 percent, outside the margin of error while the smaller Ohio Poll has it at an extremely tight 48 percent to 47 percent.
Ohio voters will begin to cast absentee and early ballots on Oct. 2.
The importance of the Buckeye vote and, in particular, the central Ohio vote is evident in the fact that Mr. Obama campaigned in the Columbus suburb of Bexley on Tuesday and Mr. Romney plans to rally in nearby Powell on Saturday. The Powell visit will mark the first joint appearance of Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan in Ohio, although both have campaigned separately here since the vice presidential pick was announced nearly two weeks ago.
“Solid majorities in each state agree with Romney that government — presumably the Obama administration — is doing too many things that should be left to the private sector,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“Wisconsin voters say Romney is better handling the economy while Ohio and Florida voters see little difference,” he said.
His poll shows Mr. Obama appears to be winning the war of words over Medicare and health care. Buckeye voters trust the President to do a better job on Medicare 51 percent to 41 percent over Mr. Romney.
“By more than 4-1 margins, voters in each state say the health care program for the elderly is worth the cost and six in 10 say they favor keeping the current Medicare model,” he said. “But 10 percent of voters in each state would support ‘major reductions’ in Medicare to reduce the deficit and almost 50 percent would support ‘minor reductions’.”
The Quinnipiac Poll show shows Mr. Obama does well among older voters and women while men tip to Mr. Romney. Worrisome for the President is that independent voters favor Mr. Romney 48 percent to 43 percent.
Ohio voters are evenly split at 47 percent on the question of which of the two would do a better job on the economy, the cornerstone of Mr. Romney’s campaign.
“On every other issue but one, reducing the budget deficit, voters give the President the edge,” Mr. Brown, of Quinnipiac, said. “Be it the taxes, foreign policy, or Medicare and health care, they see Obama as preferable.”
Mr. Romney also appears to be underwater generally among voters when it comes to their overall opinion of him. Forty-five percent view him unfavorably compared to 39 percent who view him favorably.
It’s the opposite picture for Mr. Obama where he’s viewed favorably 51 percent to 45 percent.
Mr. Obama’s campaign also appears to have successfully defined Mr. Romney in the eyes of voters as being out of touch with their needs. In all three swing states, more people say he doesn’t care about their needs and problems, none more than in Ohio where 53 percent say he doesn’t care compared to 41 percent who say he does.
Ohioans are deadlocked at 40 percent in terms of their overall opinion of Vice President Joe Biden while 37 percent favorably view Mr. Ryan. Twenty-seven percent view the Republican unfavorably while a whopping 40 percent say they don’t have enough information about the congressman to form an opinion.
Voters continue to warm to Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has seen marked improvement in his favorability rating in recent months. Forty-five percent of voters like the job he’s done as governor. Forty percent disapprove.
Mr. Kasich, who’s been given a prime speaking slot at next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, is still more than two years from seeking re-election.