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Poll: Romney advantage in key states

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(CNN) – A new poll of likely voters in Florida released Thursday indicates Republican nominee Mitt Romney has an edge over President Barack Obama in the state.

The Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll shows Romney up seven percentage points with 51% of likely Florida voters' support to Obama's 44%. Romney's advantage is within the poll's sampling error. The same survey conducted one month ago showed a much tighter race between the candidates in the Sunshine State with Obama up 48% to Romney's 47%.

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The Florida survey was conducted entirely after the first presidential debate, following what was largely considered an unenthusiastic showing from the president. The Romney campaign capitalized on the GOP candidate's lauded performance while the president conceded Thursday that he had a "bad night" last week in Denver.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted right after the debate, 67% of debate watchers questioned said that the Republican nominee won the contest, with one in four saying that President Barack Obama was victorious. National polls released in the days following the debate continued to indicate Romney received a post-debate bounce.

"There's no question in my mind that debate made people stand up and pay attention, and it really wiped away any questions people had about Romney, whether they were undecided or soft for Obama," Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research told the Tampa Bay Times.

An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll, however, released hours before Thursday's vice presidential debate indicated the candidates are in a dead heat among likely Florida voters with Obama at 48% and Romney at 47%. Obama had 47% and Romney had 46% in their poll from early last week.

Senior Obama adviser David Plouffe pushed back on the Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll's findings, telling the Times that the survey "is just not rooted in reality."

"We got 57 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit (polls) last time. We think we'll probably push 60 or above this time," Plouffe said Thursday. The campaign believes the president has an edge over Romney by a point or two and a floor support in the state of 47%.

Last month, polls showed Obama slightly ahead over Romney.

The latest CNN Poll of Polls - which is an average of six Florida polls of likely voters conducted over the past week two weeks - taken September 16-30 shows Obama with an advantage in the state, 50% to Romney's 45%.

The Times poll showed Romney ahead of Obama on a host of issues; including who likely voters believe would help improve the economy, protect Medicare – a boon for the state's large senior citizen population – and who is better looking out for the middle-class.

The battleground state holds a highly-contested 29 electoral votes and is considered a "toss up" on CNN's Electoral Map.

The president attended a campaign rally in Coral Gables, Florida Thursday before Vice President Joe Biden took the stage with Republican running mate Paul Ryan in Danville, Kentucky for the only vice presidential debate.

Shortly after the debate, Obama congratulated the vice president on what the campaign viewed as a stellar performance telling reporters in Washington that he "couldn't be prouder" of Biden. A CNN/ORC poll, nationwide poll conducted right after Thursday night's face-off, showed debate watchers split over the winner of the match-up. Forty-eight percent of voters who watched the debate thought Ryan was victorious while 44% said Biden won. The Republican running mate's four point advantage among a debate audience that was more Republican than the country as a whole is within the survey's sampling error.

Though vice presidential debates are unlikely to tip the scales Thursday's survey in Florida as well as national polls suggest Romney's performance had an effect on voters.

The presidential contenders will square off for the second time in New York on October 16 in a debate moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley.

The Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald survey consisted of 800 telephone interviews of likely Florida voters and was conducted from October 8-10 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for the Times and its media partners. The poll's sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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