When counting undecided voters leaning toward either candidate, Obama, the Democrat, held a 52-46 percent edge on Romney in an automated poll of 800 likely Michigan voters on Wednesday, a day after the men met in New York for the second of three debates.
Almost half — 46 percent — thought Obama won the most recent debate, compared to 35 percent who thought Romney won. Eleven percent called the debate a tie and 8 percent were undecided.
A poll after the first debate showed voters overwhelmingly gave Romney the advantage.
"I think the debate had a role" in Obama's lead, said Bernie Porn, pollster for EPIC-MRA of Lansing, which conducted the survey. "You look at people who watched the debate, they're voting for Obama more than the state as a whole is. Only among people who didn't watch the debate are they tied."
The third and final debate it scheduled for Monday night at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Taken with other recent polls, the EPIC-MRA survey suggests that Obama is once again solidifying a lead in Michigan after seeing a spike in support for Romney following the first debate on Oct. 3 in Denver. Romney was widely considered the winner of that debate, with the president turning in a listless performance.
In Tuesday's second debate, both men confronted each other, with Obama showing more passion, questioning Romney and his proposals and engaging more in the questioning. Romney, however, continued to show an aggressive debating style, insisting on making his points and correcting what he claimed were misrepresentations of his record and policies.
Real Clear Politics — which aggregates recent polls and puts out an average of them — showed Romney with a slim 1-percentage-point lead nationally on Thursday, though he trailed in most battleground states. The Real Clear Politics average in Michigan is a 4.2-percentage-point lead for the president.
Beverly Halbauer, a 73-year-old independent voter in Troy, was among those saying Obama won the debate. She has a poor opinion of Romney, she said Thursday, repeating a line used by Democratic supporters of the president that the Republican "didn't want to save the auto industry."
Obama has long been thought difficult to beat in Michigan — despite Romney's family ties to the state where he was born and raised. Obama has touted his efforts to use federal money to help keep General Motors and Chrysler alive in 2009. Both companies have since returned to profitability.
Perhaps more importantly for Obama, he has continued to hold an edge among women voters, who supported him by a 55-43 percent margin. Among men the race was statistically even with Obama leading 50-49 percent.
Obama also led among every age group except those 35-49.
If the president showed a weakness anywhere, it was among independent voters — where he led 48-46 percent, with 6 percent undecided. A closer look indicated that while the margin for the president was greater among independent men — 7 percentage points — independent women favored Romney 48-44 percent (though that was inside the margin of error for that subset).
Gary DeGood, 68, of LeRoy voted for Obama four years ago, but is backing Romney this time. DeGood said he questions too many of the statements the president has made in recent years. Meanwhile, he said, Romney is being pilloried for doing his job as a businessman, when he ran Bain Capital, a highly successful private venture firm.
"They're cutting him down for their business practices, but our government set those practices in place," he said, adding. "He was a businessman, he was hired to save these businesses, improve these businesses. He did his job and he did it well."
With 19 days remaining until the election, however, Porn said there may be too few votes left to court for Romney to win Michigan.
— By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press (MCT)