President Barack Obama leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney among likely voters in the battleground states of New Hampshire, Nevada, and North Carolina, new NBC News-Wall Street Journal polls show.
The surveys, conducted for the two media organizations by the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion, represent a fresh sign of Romney's predicament less than a week from his first debate with Obama. (Read More: Will the Debates Change Your Vote? )
The Democratic incumbent has also led Romney in the six previous battleground states that NBC and the WSJ surveyed: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin and Iowa. (Read More: Obama Leads Romney in Three More Swing States - Polls.)
Obama leads by 51 percent to 44 percent in New Hampshire, a state where Romney has a vacation home that is next door to his home base of Massachusetts. He leads by a narrower 49 percent to 47 percent in Nevada.
More ominously for Romney, the president also holds a two-point edge, 48 percent to 46 percent, in North Carolina — the one battleground where strategists on both sides have believed the Republican has the upper hand.
In all three states, Obama draws less support from white voters than he did in 2008. But the dropoff is not enough to pull Romney ahead.
In North Carolina, Obama is buoyed by overwhelming support, 95 percent to 3 percent, from the state's large African-American constituency. In Nevada, he owes his lead to a nearly two to one edge among Hispanics.
Obama continues to benefit from neutralizing Romney's top issue — who can better manage the economy. North Carolina voters split 45 percent to 45 percent on the question. In Nevada, Obama holds a narrow 48 percent to 46 percent edge on handling the economy; in New Hampshire, Obama's edge is 49 percent to 45 percent. (Read More: CNBC Poll: Economy's Worse, but Obama Favored to Fix It.)
The surveys were conducted Sept. 23-25. In all three states, roughly 1,000 likely voters were interviewed by telephone, with a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.
—By CNBC's John Harwood