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Polls: McCain forced to play defense in some red states

  • Story Highlights
  • New CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. polls out Wednesday
  • They suggest John McCain is on defense in areas once reliably Republican
  • Barack Obama has a 10-point lead over McCain among likely voters in Virginia
  • Obama also leading McCain in Colorado, Florida
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From Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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HEMPSTEAD, New York -- New polls out Wednesday in some crucial states that could decide the race for the White House suggest Sen. John McCain is having to defend himself in areas that once were reliably Republican.

New polls suggest that Sen. John McCain is trailing his opponent in several GOP strongholds.

New polls suggest that Sen. John McCain is trailing his opponent in several GOP strongholds.

A new CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation survey in Virginia released Wednesday indicates that Sen. Barack Obama holds a 10-point lead over McCain -- 53 percent to 43 percent among likely voters.

President Bush won Virginia by nine points over Sen. John Kerry in 2004, and the state hasn't voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1964.

"Obama is winning men and women in Virginia, and is doing well across the state east of the Blue Ridge Mountains," CNN polling director Keating Holland said.

It's a similar story in Colorado, a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat in the race for the White House in 16 years. The new poll indicates the Illinois senator holds a four-point edge over McCain, 51 percent to 47 percent. Video Watch more on if Colorado could go blue »

And in Georgia, a state that Bush won by 17 points over Kerry four years ago and that hasn't voted for the Democrats in a presidential contest in 16 years, the poll suggests only a 6-point lead for McCain, 51 percent to 45 percent.

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"It looks like McCain has to play defense in states that Republicans have been able to count on in previous elections," Holland said. "That doesn't mean he will ultimately lose those states, but it does mean he has less time and money to spend in the swing states that are likely to decide this election." Video Watch the candidates duke it out in swing states »

The poll also indicates Obama has a five-point advantage over McCain in Florida, 51 percent to 46 percent. Twenty-seven electoral votes are up for grabs in Florida. Bush took the state by five points in the last election.

In Missouri, which Bush won in the past two presidential contests, the new poll suggests it's basically a dead heat, with McCain holding a one-point advantage over Obama, 49 percent to 48 percent. Video Watch more on how voters are leaning in Missouri »

Among voters nationally, a poll released Wednesday shows an eight-point lead for Obama.

In CNN's national general election "Poll of Polls" released Wednesday afternoon, Obama was leading McCain, 50 percent to 42 percent, with eight percent unsure.

The CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation survey is being released just hours before McCain and Obama meet in the third and final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

The 90-minute face-off can been seen live on CNN and CNN.com/Live.

The debate will undoubtedly focus on the economic crisis plaguing the country. As the nation has been going through a financial crisis over the last few weeks, McCain has slipped in the polls behind Obama, the Democratic nominee.

CNN political editor Mark Preston said the debate probably will be McCain's "last chance to reach tens of millions of people with his vision for America."

"He needs a game-changer," Preston said.

The CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation polls were conducted Saturday through Tuesday, with 762 likely voters in Colorado, 765 in Florida, 718 in Georgia, 763 in Missouri and 698 in Virginia, questioned by telephone.

The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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The national general election "Poll of Polls" consists of seven surveys: Pew (October 9-12), Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg (October 10-13), CBS/New York Times (October 10-13), American Research Group (October 11-13), Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby (October 12-14), Gallup (October 12-14) and Diageo/Hotline (October 12-14).

The Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.

CNN political producer Ed Hornick contributed to this report.

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