Obama Lead Disappears in Virginia
(CNN) -- President Barack Obama's single digit lead over Mitt Romney in the crucial battleground state of Virginia has disappeared, according to a new poll.
The Quinnipiac University survey indicated Virginians split 44%-44% for the two presidential candidates. The race has tightened since March, when Obama led Romney 50%-42%, and the beginning of June, when Obama was ahead 47%-42%.
Independent voters in the state are similarly split, with 40% saying they'd vote for Obama and 38% backing Romney.
"Virginia voters are sharply split along gender and political lines about the presidential race. The two candidates equally hold their own political bases and are splitting the key independent vote down the middle," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, wrote in a statement accompanying the poll's release.
Virginia is shaping up to be a key battleground in November. Obama won the state by roughly five points in 2008, becoming the first Democrat to take the state in a presidential election since 1964, but it's considered a toss up in 2012. The commonwealth carries 13 electoral votes.
Obama made a campaign swing through Virginia at the end of last week, making stops in several of the state's distinctive regions. He began in Hampton Roads, in the southeastern part of the state, which has a heavy military presence and a large African-American population. He continued through to the capital, Richmond, and on to Roanoke, both situated in the central, more conservative part of the state.
Obama finished his tour in the northern Virginia exurbs, a part of the state that votes increasingly Democratic. Romney's last campaigned in Virginia in late June.
In Thursday's poll, voters gave Romney an edge on his handling of the economy, with 47% saying he would do a better job on improving the nation's economic health. But Obama's pledge to raise taxes on top earners is popular in Virginia, with 59% saying they support the measure.
A gender divide persists in Virginia, where Obama has the support of 46% of women, while Romney takes 46% of men. Fifty five percent of White voters in the Old Dominion State go for Romney, while African-Americans overwhelmingly support Obama over Romney, 88%-1%.
"Virginia voters are sharply split along gender and political lines about the presidential race. The two candidates equally hold their own political bases and are splitting the key independent vote down the middle," Brown wrote.
The race for U.S. Senate in Virginia is also knotted up, with voters split nearly evenly between Republican George Allen, a former governor and senator from the state, and Tim Kaine, a former governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The poll indicated Allen at 46% and Kaine at 44%.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted by telephone from 1,673 registered voters between July 10-16. The sampling error was plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.