NBC NEWS – As President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney prepare to square off for their first debate Wednesday night, the Democratic incumbent maintains a significant lead in one key battleground state while the contests in two others have tightened, according to a new round of NBC News/Marist/Wall Street Journal polls.

In Ohio, Obama holds a 51 percent to 43 percent lead among likely voters, which is relatively unchanged from his 50 percent to 43 percent lead three weeks ago.

In Florida and Virginia, Obama and Romney are statistically tied, with the Democrat clinging to a slight edge. In Florida, Obama leads 47 percent to 46 percent, down from 49 percent to 45 percent in mid-September. And in Virginia, Obama is up 48 percent to 46 percent. Last month, Obama led 49 percent to 45 percent in the Old Dominion state.

For Obama, he’s ahead at a time of growing optimism about the economy and nation’s direction. For Romney, it’s a “margin of error” contest that comes as interest in the upcoming election lags among key Democratic constituencies versus four years ago.

But Hart adds, “Barack Obama has the better hand.”

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