Romney ties Obama in new "swing state" polls

National Journal gives a pretty good rundown of the aggregated report from Quinnipiac from surveys taken last week in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, three key states that Barack Obama won in 2008.  Would he win them today?  Right now all three are toss-ups — but that’s for the moment:

• Romney leads Obama in Florida, 45 percent to 42 percent, but he trails in Ohio, 45 percent to 42 percent, and Pennsylvania, 44 percent to 43 percent. The difference between Obama and Romney is within the respective margin of error in each of the three states.

• Obama leads embattled businessman Herman Cain in all three states: in Florida, 45 percent to 41 percent, and in Ohio and Pennsylvania, 48 percent to 38 percent.

• Obama also leads Gingrich in all three states, though Gingrich comes within the margin of error in Florida, trailing the president, 45 percent to 42 percent. Obama leads Gingrich by 12 points in Ohio, 49 percent to 37 percent, and by 10 points in Pennsylvania, 48 percent to 38 percent.

• Against Perry, Obama leads in all three states: in Florida, 46 percent to 40 percent; Ohio, 48 percent to 36 percent; and Pennsylvania, 47 percent to 38 percent.

What jumps out the most to me in these matchups aren’t the lead, but the position of the incumbent — especially in Pennsylvania.  Democrats have a double-digit registration advantage in the state, and that should be enough to keep Obama in the lead anyway.  Instead, Romney gets within a point and Cain, Perry, and Gingrich within ten, while the Republicans battle for the nomination.  Obama doesn’t get to 50% in any of these matchups.  Against Romney, Obama can’t even get above 45% in any of the three states he won in 2008, a very bad sign for an incumbent — and a signal that voters are looking only for a credible candidate in order to reject Obama for a second term.

What happens if only these three states flip?  Obama still wins, 292-246, in the Electoral College.  But flipping Ohio and Pennsylvania would almost certainly mean losing states like Indiana and Virginia, which have similar demographics.  Flipping those five states alone hands the Presidency to the Republicans, 270-268, and tossing in North Carolina moves it to a 285-253 win for the GOP.   That’s before one gets to Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and possibly Michigan if Romney ends up as the nominee.  If those states flip, it becomes a more solid Republican win at 323-215.

Gallup offers some better polling news to Obama — he’s back on top of the generic Republican candidate:

 President Obama now essentially ties, 43% to 42%, a “generic” Republican candidate when U.S. registered voters are asked whom they are more likely to vote for in the presidential election next year. This marks a change from October and September, when the Republican candidate was ahead, and underscores the potential for a close presidential race in the year ahead.

Voter preferences on this measure have shifted somewhat from survey to survey over the last year, but support for both Obama and the Republican has varied within a relatively narrow 38% to 47% range.

Obama gains two percentage points in his advantage over the Republican when taking into account the leanings of undecided voters, but the two remain in a 48% to 45% statistical tie.

This still shows Obama at risk as an incumbent, although not as badly as last month’s 38%.  That’s a small bounce, but it comes from a sharp increase in support from independents over last month — an eight-point shift.  Two months ago, the generic Republican led Obama by 21 points (48/27) among independents in this series, but that has closed to a tie at 38% each.  That could be a red flag for Republicans.