The Washington Times - October 8, 2012, 08:04AM

President Obama leads Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 3 points in Virginia — slightly down from a 5-point lead three weeks ago — as Mr Romney is set to deliver a major foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute on Monday.

The new poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling is the closest the firm has found the race in the state over the entire cycle, “but Obama continues to find himself at the critical 50% mark in a state where Romney probably can’t afford to lose,” the firm said.


“We’ve been calling Virginia Obama’s firewall state the entire cycle and this is just more evidence for it,” said Dean Debnam, president of PPP. “Even after one of his worst weeks of the campaign Obama continues to hold the lead there.”

Voters think Mr. Romney won last Wednesday’s presidential debate by a 61 percent to 28 percent margin, and he gained a net 10 points in his favorability ratings from mid-September. Fifty-two percent of likely voters in the state have a favorable view of Mr. Romney compared with 44 percent with an unfavorable one, while Mr. Romney had a 47/49 favorable-unfavorable split last month.

Mr. Obama’s job approval ratings are identical to what they were three weeks ago: 50 percent of voters approve, compared with 48 percent who disapprove.

Meanwhile, Big Bird, who has received an outsized amount of attention after Mr. Romney’s pledge to cut funding for PBS during the debate, has a markedly favorable rating from voters. Fifty-six percent have a favorable opinion of the giant yellow character from the show “Sesame Street,” with 10 percent having an unfavorable one and 34 percent not sure.

A majority of voters do, however, favor public funding for PBS: 55 percent support it, 35 percent oppose it, and 11 percent aren’t sure.

The party breakdown of respondents is 38 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican and 30 percent “independent/other.” The survey of 725 likely Virginia voters from Oct. 4 to 7 has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.