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A new round of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls shows President Barack Obama opening up significant leads in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.

The latest surveys show Obama leading Mitt Romney in both Florida and Virginia by identical 49 to 44 percent margins. In Ohio, Obama leads 50 to 43 percent.

One key to the president’s lead is that he has erased Romney’s advantage on the economy. In Florida and Virginia, Obama and Romney are virtually tied on the question of which candidate would do a better job handling the economy — and Obama leads Romney by four percent on the question in Ohio. Considering that, until recently, Romney’s entire strategy hinged on sinking Obama with the sluggish economic recovery as an anchor, this should be a red alert for the Republican campaign.

Republicans will also find these numbers troubling due to the simple realities of the Electoral College. As NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray points out,

Romney likely needs to capture at least two of these states, if not all three, to secure the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency.

By comparison, Obama can reach 270 by winning just one or two of these battlegrounds – on top of the other states already considered to be in his column.

(Obama also has an additional path to victory without any of these three states if he wins the toss-up contests of Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.)

In addition to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, Politico reports that an internal Republican survey conducted this week shows Obama leading Romney by four points in Ohio. If these numbers hold and Romney loses the Buckeye State, his chances of winning the election are slim.

The new state polls follow a broader trend that has emerged since the Democratic Convention: Obama has taken the lead in the presidential race. The most recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows President Obama holding a three-point national lead over Romney; Gallup’s tracking poll shows Obama ahead by six points; and a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Obama leading by seven points.

As Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told NBC News: While the president’s lead isn’t insurmountable, “You’d rather be in Obama’s shoes than Romney’s.”


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