With Election Day less than six weeks away, Obama received more than 50 percent support in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida in a random telephone survey of likely voters taken Sept. 18-24. He has held smaller leads in those states in earlier polls.
Obama, who enjoys a huge advantage among women, minorities and young voters, led his Republican challenger 54 percent to 42 percent in Pennsylvania, 53 percent to 43 percent in Ohio and 53 percent to 44 percent in Florida, the biggest prize of the three with 29 electoral votes. The poll by Quinnipiac (Conn.) University, CBS News and the New York Times had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points in Florida and 2.9 percentage points in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
No one has won the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960 without winning at least two of the three key battleground states.
The president did better with voters on nearly every issue, including the ability to handle the economy, which was the top concern for voters in all three states.
"For the first time in the entire campaign, he is seen as better able to fix the economy," said Peter Brown, assistant director for Quinnipiac.
Brown noted that the poll almost certainly reflected damage to Romney's effort from a secretly recorded statement that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims and that government has a responsibility to care for them. In all three states, more than half the respondents said they believed Romney's policies favored the wealthy.
Romney, however, had a slight edge with voters when asked who was better suited to deal with the budget deficit.
Brown said the presidential debates in October may be Romney's last chance to reverse his slide.
The poll also showed the Democratic incumbents seeking to retain their U.S. Senate seats in each state were running ahead of their GOP challengers. Bill Nelson led U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV by 14 percentage points, 53-39, in Florida; Sherrod Brown led Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel 50 percent to 40 percent and Robert Casey Jr. led businessman Tom Smith 49-43 in Pennsylvania.
Ohio voters approved of Republican Gov. John Kasich's job performance, 48 percent to 35 percent, but two other Republican governors, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania and Rick Scott in Florida, were upside down with voters in their states. Pennsylvania voters disapproved of Corbett's performance 47 percent to 36 percent while 48 percent of Floridians disapproved of Scott's handling of his office compared to 38 percent who approved.
The survey, which used land line and cell phones to reach voters, included 1,196 likely voters in Florida, 1,162 in Ohio and 1,180 in Pennsylvania.