VANDALIA, Ohio — After trailing President Barack Obama for months in the most crucial battleground of the US election, Republican Mitt Romney has drawn even with his rival in Ohio, newspapers in the state said Sunday.

"49-49: Dead Heat," the Cleveland Plain Dealer front page headline blared, citing the latest poll from the Ohio News Organization Poll.

Several other newspapers, including the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer, highlighted the same data on their front pages Sunday, when Romney arrives in the state for a full day of campaigning. He returns to the state Monday as well.

The group's September 13-18 survey showed Obama ahead 51-46, but as in several other hot spots, the polls have tightened ahead of the November 6 election.

The closely watched poll average compiled by website RealClearPolitics had Obama ahead 2.3 percentage points on Saturday, but by Sunday his advantage had slipped to 1.9 points.

However, the latest Ohio news poll, of 1,015 likely voters, is not the absolute latest snapshot; it was conducted October 18-23, whereas the final presidential debate occurred October 22, meaning the bulk of the survey was done prior to that showdown.

The poll showed Romney's support grew primarily among men, high school and college graduates, as well as in every age category except age 18-29.

"In the final days before the election, both campaigns will focus on turning out their bases, appealing to independents and attracting the few undecided voters that remain," said Eric Rademacher, of the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, which conducted the poll.

"Absent any more twists and turns, a remarkable presidential campaign may end with the campaign that executes the best 'ground game' narrowly delivering Ohio for the next president of the United States."

The state is absolutely crucial for Romney; he faces fewer paths to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, and no Republican has ever clinched the presidency without winning Ohio.

Nearly 20 percent of the poll's respondents indicated they had already voted, further confirmation of the impact of early voting on the 2012 race.