The Suffolk University Political Research Center has determined Mitt Romney is a lock to win the battleground states of Florida, Virginia and North Carolina and will not conduct additional polls there during the final four weeks of the presidential election.
The three states are generally considered to be competitive battlegrounds with uncertain Election Day outcomes.
“In places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, we’ve already painted those red,’’ David Paleologos, the center’s director, 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.’’
The announcement appeared to surprise conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly, who paused his interview with Paleologos to ask, “your polling agency is convinced that Florida, North Carolina and Virginia are going to go for Romney?’’
“That’s right,’’ Paleologos replied, “and here’s why: Before the debate, the Suffolk poll had Obama winning, 46-43, in the head-to-head number [in Florida] — a poor place to be for a couple of reasons. Number one, his ballot test. His head-to-head number was under 47 before the debate, and it’s very difficult when you’re the known quantity, the incumbent, to claw your way up to 50, so that was a very, very poor place for him to be. And so we’re looking at this polling data, not only in Florida but in Virginia and in North Carolina, and it’s overwhelming.’’
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 gap between Obama and Romney has been tightening since the strong debate performance by the Republican nominee. Polls in Michigan and Pennsylvania suggest those two states, previously thought to be strongly leaning toward the president, could be in play on Nov. 6. Also, on Tuesday night, the latest WMUR Granite State Poll showed Romney trailing the president by only 6 percentage points in New Hampshire, down from 15 points a week before.
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 impact of the debate 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.