The US presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is very close in four of the critical battleground states expected to decide next week's election, but Obama has built a small lead in Virginia, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.
The incumbent Democratic president leads his Republican challenger by five percentage points among likely voters in Virginia, at 49% to 44%.
That margin exceeds the survey's 4-point credibility interval, the tool used to account for statistical variation in Internet polls.
Obama has two-point leads among likely voters in both Ohio and Florida, leaving those races statistically tied.
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Romney leads by one point in Colorado, edging Obama by 47-46%, effectively another dead heat.
With the national race tied or nearly so in most polls, the presidency will be decided in a handful of hotly contested swing states where the battle for the White House is now mostly considered too close to call.
The trends are important despite the small size of the leads, Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said, especially in Virginia, where Obama led by just two points in poll results released on Wednesday.
"It will be one to watch very closely in the next few days," she said.
Leads among those who already voted. Obama (Photo: MCT)
Mitt Romney in Virginia (Photo: AP)
Clark said the result was not affected by superstorm Sandy, which hit parts of Virginia early this week but did not cause devastation anywhere near the impact in hard-hit New Jersey and New York.
Obama led Romney by one percentage point nationally in the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll conducted from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, a margin within the online survey's credibility interval.
The national race has been stable as the Nov. 6 Election Day approaches, despite a barrage of late campaign ads and the effects of Sandy. Obama has remained at 47% and Romney at 46% in the online poll for three days running.
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Backing for both candidates seems solid. In the national survey, only 11% of Romney's supporters said they might change their mind, and just 8% of Obama's backers indicated the same.
About a quarter – 26% - of registered voters said they have already cast their ballots. Among them, Obama leads by 52% to 43%. The number is not necessarily predictive because Democrats are typically more likely to vote early than Republicans.
'We know what change looks like.' Obama (Photo: AP)
The state polls showed Democratic Senate candidates in Ohio and Florida leading by wider margins than Obama's advantage in the presidential race.
In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown led Republican Josh Mandel by 50% to 42%.
In Florida, Senator Bill Nelson led Republican Connie Mack by 52% to 41%.
Democratic candidate Tim Kaine was ahead in the Virginia Senate race, but his 47-44% advantage over Republican George Allen was within the survey's credibility interval.
In the national survey, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3 percentage points for registered voters and 3.4 for likely voters.
Speaking at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Thursday, Obama said "Governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we’ve been cleaning up after for the past four years. And he’s been offering them up as change.
"Well let me tell you, Wisconsin, we know what change looks like, and what the governor’s offering sure ain’t change," the president added.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg responded by saying that "we've said all along this election is a choice between the status quo and real change - change that offers promise that the future will be better than the past."
Speaking in Roanoke, Virginia, Romney reiterated his argument that he was the candidate of change.
"We've seen what his (Obama's) policies have produced - the only way to get this economy going is the kind of bold change I've described, real change from day one," he told supporters at a window company.
"That'll get this economy going, create jobs, rising take-home pay. We'll have a very different future when I get elected."
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday endorsed President Obama for a second term, citing the importance of Obama's record on climate change, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating blow dealt to the New York area by storm Sandy.
"Our climate is changing," Bloomberg wrote in an opinion article for Bloomberg View. "And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be - given this week's devastation - should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
Bloomberg said Obama has taken significant steps to reduce carbon consumption, whereas Republican challenger Mitt Romney has backtracked on earlier positions he had taken as governor of Massachusetts to battle climate change.