Democrat Barack Obama widened his lead in three big battleground states, boosted by his performance in the first presidential debate, worsening economic jitters, and increasing skepticism about GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, according to new polls released this morning.
Obama's surge is particularly pronounced in Pennsylvania, where he led Republican John McCain by 49 percent to 43 percent before Friday's debate, but leads by 54 percent to 39 percent in the new Quinnipiac University surveys.
In Florida, Obama's edge grew from 49 percent-43 percent to 51 percent-43 percent. And in Ohio, his lead increased from 49 percent-42 percent to 50 percent-42 percent.
While more than 80 percent of voters in each state said the debate didn't change their minds, Obama was the clear winner by 13 percentage points to 17 percentage points, the polls found. The pre-debate surveys started Sept. 22 and ended at 8 p.m. Friday, an hour before the debate, while the post-debate polls were conducted on Saturday through Monday, Quinnipiac said.
Obama has been surging over the last month, now crossing the 50 percent threshold when he had been trailing in the three states in polls released Sept. 11.
"It is difficult to find a modern competitive presidential race that has swung so dramatically, so quickly and so sharply this late in the campaign. In the last 20 days, Sen. Barack Obama has gone from seven points down to eight points up in Florida, while widening his leads to eight points in Ohio and 15 points in Pennsylvania," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. "Sen. John McCain has his work cut out for him if he is to win the presidency and there does not appear to be a role model for such a comeback in the last half century."
Quinnipiac notes that no one has been elected president since 1960 without winning at least two of these three states, which combined have 68 of the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the White House.
UPDATE: Another series of battleground state polls out this afternoon also show Obama gaining ground and taking the lead in Missouri and Virginia.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. surveys show Obama leading McCain 54 percent to 43 percent in Florida among registered voters, up from a tie at 48 percent two weeks ago; also ahead 54 percent to 43 percent in Minnesota, up from 53 percent to 41 percent a month ago; up 50 percent to 45 percent in Missouri, flipping McCain's edge three weeks ago; leading 54 percent to 43 percent in Nevada, up from 49 percent to 44 percent last month; and ahead 54 percent to 42 percent in Virginia, reversing McCain's lead three weeks ago of 50 percent to 46 percent.
Obama's leads among likely voters are slightly smaller in the CNN polls. But the results among registered voters could be more telling in a year when many first-time and new voters cast ballots during the primaries -- people who wouldn't necessarily qualify as likely voters.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.