Race tightens in key states

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greets supporters during a campaign stop in Portsmouth, Va., on Thursday, May 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Virginian-Pilot,Ross Taylor)

WASHINGTON — It’s been more than 50 years since a candidate has won the White House without carrying at least two of the three swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, and a new poll shows Mitt Romney neck and neck with President Barack Obama in two of them.

Romney, who trailed Obama 49 percent to 42 percent in Florida and 47 percent to 41 percent in Ohio in late March, is now statistically tied with the president, 44 percent to 43 percent in Florida and 42 percent to 44 percent in Ohio, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll of voters in the three key swing states.

Obama, however, has improved on his lead in Pennsylvania, where he beats Romney 47 percent to 39 percent, up considerably from the 45 percent to 42 percent lead he enjoyed in March.

Quinnipiac surveyed 3,467 voters in the three states in live interviews on cellphones and landlines from April 25 through May 1.

The results of the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, led Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the university’s polling institute, to conclude that Obama is doing “slightly better” than Romney in the three states.

“What appears to be keeping Romney in the ball game, at least in Florida and Ohio, is the perception he can better fix the economy,” Brown said.

A majority of voters surveyed — at least 67 percent in each state — say they economy is in a recession, but at least half say recovery has begun. In Pennsylvania, voters are divided over which candidate would do a better job on the economy. In Florida and Ohio, more voters think Romney would do a better job.

Asked if they believe the Supreme Court should overturn Obama’s health care law, a signature achievement of his administration, 51 percent in Ohio and Florida and 46 percent in Pennsylvania said they think it should be overturned.

The poll found Obama continuing to perform better than Romney among women. Pennsylvania women in particular are “wild” about Obama, supporting him 52 percent to Romney’s 35 percent.

Still, the 8 percentage point margin Obama enjoys in Pennsylvania is three percentage points lower than his winning margin there in the 2008 election.