SECTIONS

CHICAGO, Monday

Barack Obama leads John McCain in five of eight crucial battleground states one week before the US presidential election, with McCain ahead in two states and Florida dead even, according to a series of Reuters/Zogby polls released today.

Obama held steady with a 5-point lead over McCain among likely US voters in a separate Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby national tracking poll, the same advantage he held yesterday. The national telephone poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Republican McCain is struggling to defend about a dozen states won by President George W Bush in 2004, including all eight of the states surveyed over the last three days.

Breakthroughs

Breakthroughs by Obama in any of those states could move him close to or above the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the White House on November 4.

Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, held narrow leads over McCain in Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio and Nevada, most within the margin of error of 4.1 percentage points. McCain had a solid 10-point lead in West Virginia and a 6-point edge in Indiana.

The two candidates were tied at 47 per cent in Florida, the largest of the battlegrounds with 27 electoral votes and the state that decided the disputed 2000 election.

Serious danger

Most polls show Obama comfortably ahead in all of the states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004, but the Reuters/Zogby polls show McCain in serious danger in several states won by Bush.

"If Obama holds the Kerry states, he is in line now to get enough electoral votes to win the White House," Zogby said, noting McCain faces a difficult fight in a handful of states where Republicans have a long history of success. "These polls are a measure of what an uphill battle McCain faces to win," Zogby said. "These are all Republican states and McCain has a very tough challenge, but they are all close."

The state polls showed Obama leads in Virginia by 7 points, 52 per cent to 45 per cent, and in neighbouring North Carolina by 4 points, 50 per cent to 46 per cent. In Missouri, Obama leads by a narrow 48 per cent to 46 per cent. In fast-growing Nevada, an influx of new residents, growth in the Hispanic population and economic troubles have given Obama momentum and a 4-point lead, 48 per cent to 44 per cent.—Reuters

Obama leads by 5 points, 50 per cent to 45 per cent, in Ohio, the state where Bush’s narrow victory over Kerry clinched his re-election in 2004.

But Obama’s hopes of putting heavily Republican Indiana into the Democratic column are threatened as he trails 50 to 44 per cent. McCain has a comfortable 50 per cent to 40 per cent lead in West Virginia, a state some polls had shown was becoming competitive.

With the race in Florida tight, both candidates plan to spend several campaign days there down the stretch. Obama will hold a late-night rally in Orlando on Wednesday with former President Bill Clinton.