We wrap up the first round in our Big 10 series with Ohio–perhaps the quintessential and, arguably, most important swing state. The closeness of recent presidential elections certainly makes the Buckeye State a battleground, and with good reason. With a single exception (1960) Ohio has gone with the presidential winner every election since 1944.

So, as in our other polls in this series, we asked each participant: “If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?” We’ve included Libertarian Gary Johnson to test the impact of a third-party candidate on what may be a very tight race. Here are our results:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 24, 2012 - Participants: 1,115 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3%
 Barack ObamaMitt RomneyGary JohnsonUndecided
All voters (weighted)47.84%40.20%2.04%9.93%

What pops out immediately is the high percentage of self-described Republicans who say they will vote for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.  An outlier?  Perhaps.  But we went back into the field last night to test it again. The results: almost identical.  Hmmm.  We going to keep an eye on that.

Since Independents are leaning toward Romney, if the “wayward” GOP electorate come back home to roost, this will tighten up considerably and quickly. And a rumored choice of Ohio Senator Rob Portman as Romney’s VP running mate could reverse what we’re seeing today.

Then again, maybe those GOP voters leaning toward Obama are the result of the President working Ohio like Rocky Balboa on a side of beef…breaking a few political ribs while he’s at it.

And those take a long time to heal.