Will Ohio propel President Obama to victory?

Opinion

Can the Buckeye State save President Obama?

After Mitt Romney’s strong debate performance almost two weeks ago, the Republican presidential nominee has surged into an effective tie in most national polls and has overtaken the president in Florida and North Carolina, two states where Obama won in 2008.

But in Ohio, three surveys over the last week (CNN, NBC/WSJ/Marist and PPP) have shown Obama maintaining a small, but stable lead in a state that no Republican has ever been elected president without carrying.

The polls in the Buckeye State suggest that Obama’s huge advantage among women has endured here, even as it has disappeared  in other states. The NBC/Marist poll showed the candidates tied at 47 percent among men in Ohio, but Obama ahead by a whopping 12 points among women. The CNN poll also showed the president with a double-digit lead among female voters.

The results in Ohio illustrate Obama’s path to victory both there and nationally. If he can maintain his strength among women, blacks, Latinos and voters under age 30, the president could still win the race even if Romney delivers strong performances in the last two presidential debates. Most polls right now show the president at around 90 percent of the black vote, 70 percent with Latinos and 40 percent among white voters, numbers that severely complicate Romney’s path, particularly in states like Virginia with sizable minority populations.

Related: Will Obama’s coalition endure?

Romney could win without Ohio, but it would be a hard-to-imagine scenario of the former governor carrying Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. The two are effectively tied in all of those places except North Carolina, where Romney is favored.

The polls don’t clearly illustrate exactly why Ohio has turned into an outlier. The president won there by five points in 2008. But in some states he won easily four years ago, like Iowa, where Obama won by 10 points, his numbers have declined sharply.

Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr