Swing States are Neck-and-Neck

Today’s NBC News/Marist poll has President Obama and Mitt Romney virtually tied in New Hampshire, North Carolina and — most troubling for the president — Michigan. With little more than four months to go, the close race in the key Rust Belt state is the latest sign of turmoil in Obama’s reelection strategy.

A new round of NBC News-Marist polls shows President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney running almost neck-and-neck in three key battleground states, with Obama holding a slight advantage in Michigan and North Carolina, and the two candidates tied in New Hampshire.

In New Hampshire, the race has narrowed in Romney’s favor since mid-May. In 2008, Obama won the state by 10 points, but it was expected to be in play this year. The president’s go-negative strategy may be less effective in New Hampshire, as voters there are familiar with Romney and many already hold an opinion about him. Romney’s favorability ratings are also higher in New Hampshire than in the two other states in the survey.

Democrats hoped to hold onto North Carolina by holding the convention there, but so far that has seemed to be a colossal misstep. Rather than helping Obama, the attention on the scandal-ridden state Democratic Party has mainly resulted in negative publicity. The president’s gay marriage decision, which appeared to be a direct rebuke of North Carolina voters, didn’t help either. Obama beat John McCain by just .4 percent there in 2008, so he has a steep hill to climb.

But Obama’s failure to open a lead in Michigan is by far the worst news for his campaign, and a sign he’ll have to fight just for a chance to hold onto the Rust Belt. Since the beginning of June, the race has been tightening in the state (as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio), likely in response to the gloomy jobs numbers and stagnant recovery. The last NBC/Marist poll in February showed Obama up by 18 points in Michigan, but that was back when the unemployment situation appeared to be improving. A lot has changed since then–much of it for the worst for the president.