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Romney locks down vital swing states, poll center says

A week after Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance, the polls reveal a changing landscape of tossup states. The Republican presidential nominee has gained on President Obama in battleground states, even placing a few firmly in his column, according to one influential pollster.

“In places like North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, we’ve already painted those red,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday night. “We’re not polling any of those states again. We’re focusing on the remaining states.”

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The Suffolk University Political Research Center, based in Boston, is a widely respected polling agency that has conducted surveys for prominent news outlets, including the Globe. It claims to have a 96 percent record of accuracy in predicting winners since 2002.

The most recent Suffolk polls, before the debate, show Obama with slight leads in Florida and Virginia. But Paleologos said he is now convinced that those two states and North Carolina will go for Romney.

Others are more cautious.

“Obviously, things have moved in Romney’s direction, but we’re not making any bold pronouncements, like we’re going to stop polling,” said Geoff Skelley, a spokesman for the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Frankly, that’s a little out there.”

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said his group will continue to poll in those three states because the outcomes there are not certain.

“Not by any stretch of the imagination,” Miringoff said.

The latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, of likely voters in the three states, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, found no sharp movement after the debate. Obama held a slim advantage in Virginia and Wisconsin in the poll and remains tied with Romney in Colorado.

But surveys do reveal a favorable pattern for Romney. Skelley said his group would announce new ratings showing Virginia had moved from “lean Obama” to “tossup” and Florida had moved from “tossup” to “lean Romney.”

The website Real Clear Politics, which averages results from major polling agencies, puts Romney less than a point behind Obama in Ohio, perhaps the most critical election battleground, since no Republican has won the White House without also winning Ohio. Before the debate, multiple Ohio polls showed the president’s lead nearing double digits.

Even states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, which appeared to be slipping off the board, could be back in play, with Obama’s leads there, ranging from 4 to 6 points.

Romney trails Obama by 6 points in the latest WMUR Granite State Poll only a week after the same poll showed him down by 15. The new poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, partly before and partly after the Oct. 3 debate in Denver, suggesting the full bounce might not yet be visible.

In the survey of 559 likely voters, 47 percent said they plan to vote for Obama, and 41 percent said they back Romney.

Romney made huge gains among women, who in the span of a week went from favoring the president by 27 points to preferring Obama by just 8 points. The former Massachusetts governor also surged among independent voters, who now side with Obama by 6 points, after breaking his way by 18 points in last week’s poll.

Material from The New York Times was used in this article. Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com.
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