Mitt Romney after taking part in convention preparations in Wolfeboro,… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
TAMPA, Fla. -- As Republicans prepare to get their storm-delayed convention underway in Florida, a new poll shows President Obama clinging to a narrow lead in the state.
The race is closer, a virtual tie, in North Carolina, where the Democrats plan to hold their convention next week, according to the polls released by CNN and Time magazine.
In Florida, Obama leads 50%-46% among likely voters and 51%-42% among all registered voters, according to the survey, which was conducted Wednesday through Sunday. Roughly a dozen public polls have been released of Florida voters since the beginning of July, with Obama leading most of them.
Republicans chose to hold their convention in Florida partly in recognition of its must-win status for their nominee. Obama won the state in 2008, thanks in large part to a very large turnout of black and non-Cuban Latino voters. But Republicans swept the state in 2010, and its electorate leans slightly more Republican than the average of the other battleground states, suggesting that if Romney does not win here, he would be hard-pressed to put together an electoral majority.
North Carolina has been considered even more likely to end up in Romney’s column. Obama barely carried the state in 2008, and Romney has led in the majority of the polls conducted in the state during the summer. The leads have been small, however, and both parties have been treating the state as a competitive battleground.
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Romney leads in North Carolina in the new poll by 48% to 47% among likely voters, but among all registered voters, Obama held a 48%-46% edge. Both figures are well within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
The key to the tight race in North Carolina appears to be Obama’s ability to hold his own among white women.
Obama has a commanding 84%-9% lead among North Carolina’s non-white voters, and Romney leads among white men in the state by 3-1, the poll showed. But among white women, Obama trails by a much closer margin, 41%-53%.
In Florida, those gaps are much less pronounced. Obama leads among women overall, 54%-42% while Romney has a somewhat smaller lead among men, 46%-50%.
Despite speculation that the debate over Medicaremight scare seniors away from the Republican ticket, those over 65 continue to be Romney’s greatest source of support in both states. The polls showed him leading among seniors by six points in Florida and five points in North Carolina. In both states, Obama led among voters younger than 50.
In Florida, however, the two candidates were running even among voters ages 50-64 – the age group that might be most directly affected by the Medicare debate. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) have proposed converting Medicare to a voucher program starting with people who are currently age 55 and younger.
In both states, the vast majority of voters say they already have their minds made up. In Florida, about one-in-eight voters said they might change their minds, while in North Carolina about one-in-six said so. In both states, younger voters were more likely to say they were open to changing, a potential problem for Obama.