As President Obama and Mitt Romney campaigned heavily in the battleground state of Ohio on Thursday, new polls show neck-and-neck race in Colorado with both candidates tied at 48 percent; meanwhile in Nevada, the president still holds a slight advantage. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.
The race between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney is locked in a dead heat in Colorado, while the president maintains a narrow edge in the other Western swing state of Nevada.
Obama and Romney are tied at 48 percent among likely voters in Colorado, according to the new NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist polls conducted this week, entirely after the third and final presidential debate. Among the broader sample of registered voters, Obama holds a 48 to 47 percent lead over Romney.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Worthington Industries on Oct. 25, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The race for the Centennial State has tightened since mid-September – right after the Democratic convention and before the debates – when Obama led 50 percent to 45 percent.
But the president's lead has held in another important battleground state, Nevada.
Obama leads Romney, 50 to 47 percent, among likely voters in Nevada. That result is within the margin of error, but also mirrors the late September Nevada NBC/WSJ/Marist poll, when Obama was up 49 percent to 47 percent among likely voters.
Among the broader sample of registered voters, Obama's lead in Nevada expands to 51 percent to 45 percent.
“I think we’re at a different point than we were in mid-September,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the polls. “Romney’s had a better October than any of the other months in the campaign. We do see a change in his favorability. He’s no longer upside down. That’s leveled off. He’s doing better with independent voters, closed the gender gap, and doing better with women. What that means for a place like Colorado -- it is extremely close right now, but it is clearly a state that could go either way.”
Romney makes gains in Colorado
In Colorado, Obama is not hitting his mark with white voters, and is now losing suburban Denver voters as well as independents to Romney, who has also closed the gender gap versus the president. Enthusiasm among young voters has also fallen off for the president.
Men and women alike in Denver's suburbs have shifted toward Romney; a month ago, Obama led by 18 points among Denver suburban women, an advantage that closed to 3 percent in the most recent poll. Romney has expanded his lead among Denver's suburban men from 6 points last month to 13 points in this week's poll.
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President Barack Obama greets supporters on the tarmac upon his arrival on Air Force One at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.
A month ago, Obama led with independents 50 to 39 percent, an advantage which has shrunk to a virtual draw, 46 to 45 percent. Among women, the president led in September by a whopping 14 points, 54 to 40 percent, a lead that has been halved to 7 percent (52 to 45 percent).
Obama has been able to stay even with Romney by maintaining big margins in Colorado's more liberal bastions and with strong support from Latinos, who say they support the president 63 to 34 percent. They make up a larger percentage of the electorate than 2008 and are breaking for Obama by a wider margin.
Latinos fuel Obama’s Nevada edge
Nevada is slightly friendlier turf for the president; Obama won Colorado by 9 percent in 2008, and won Nevada by 12 points.
Fueling Obama's lead in the Silver State is an even larger margin over Romney among Latinos and robust early voting for the president. Romney, in turn, is aided by stronger enthusiasm by Republicans, who are helping keep the GOP nominee in the race.
Hispanics, who make up 16 percent of respondents, broke for the president, 74 to 23 percent, versus Romney.
Seventy-one percent say they have either already voted or plan to vote early. Obama leads with those who say they have already voted (53 to 45 percent) and by a wider margin with those who have not yet decided if they will vote early or on Election Day (53 to 38 percent).
How crucial is the Latino vote in these two states to Obama?
“In a close race, every group makes a difference,” Miringoff said, but this group really makes a difference. It’s keeping him in the contest in these states.”
The polls were conducted Oct. 23 to 24. The Nevada poll has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent among likely voters. The Colorado poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent.