All the talk about next week’s first presidential debate has taken on even more significance, given the recent polls showing President Barack Obama to be pulling away from Republican hopeful Mitt Romney in the swing states of Ohio and Florida.
A NYT/Quinnipiac/CBS poll released Wednesday found that Obama has opened up a 10-point lead in Ohio and a nine-point advantage in Florida, the latest of several surveys that suggest Romney continues to lose ground just weeks before the election.
Obama is leading Romney 53 percent to 43 percent in the Ohio poll. In Florida, the president holds a 53 to 44 percent poll advantage over Romney.
The surveys, which had margins of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for each candidate, also included a Pennsylvania poll, where Obama holds a lead of 12 percentage points.
The polls were conducted last week as the Romney campaign grappled with the fallout from the release of his tax returns and remarks he made at a fund-raiser in which he disparaged Obama supporters by saying that they were 47 percent of Americans saw themselves as victims who are dependent on the government.
The NYT/ Quinnipiac/CBS survey follows a Washington Post poll that was released Tuesday that found Obama up 52-44 in Ohio and 51-47 in Florida.
Obama will head to Henderson, Nevada for three days of preparations for next week’s face-off in Denver against Romney on Oct. 3.
The president will begin practicing in the Las Vegas suburb on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times. His schedule there will include time for the daily battery of presidential meetings while leaving room for three afternoon debate sessions, assuming no crises flare up.
Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, will play Romney in the mock sessions.
Obama has already canceled some debate preparation because of events in the Middle East, said Jen Psaki, his campaign press secretary.
“He has had to balance the management of world events, governing, time out campaigning,” she said. “He’ll have less time than we anticipated to sharpen and cut down his tendency to give long, substantive answers.”
Psaki’s response is part of a concerted effort by the Obama campaign to lower expectations for the upcoming debates, with deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter echoing Psaki Wednesday.
“The president is going to have to balance his time to prep with his other duties, official duties as president,” Cutter said on MSNBC.
The date of next week’s debate is the first of three presidential debates and will also mark the 20th anniversary of the president’s marriage to First Lady Michelle Obama.