Now that the general election is heating up, it's time to pay attention to the swing states that pick the president. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.

Findings: Obama leads Romney in Virginia, 51 percent to 44 percent.
PollsterWashington Post
Methodology: Phone survey of 1,101 Virginians, 964 of them registered voters, from April 28 to May 2.
Why it matters: Virginia was once a reliably Republican state, but Obama flipped it in 2008, thanks to strong support in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. If Obama wins Virginia and the western swing states, he can win without Florida and Ohio. "The coalition of Virginians that propelled him to victory in 2008 — young voters, suburban Washingtonians, women and African Americans — is largely intact," the Post finds. 
Caveat: The poll finds 44 percent disapprove of the job Obama's doing. That's lower than what Obama averaged nationally -- 47 percent -- according to Gallup.

Findings: Romney is ahead of Obama in Florida with 44 percent to his 43 percent.
PollsterQuinnipiac
Methodology: Survey of 1,169 Florida voters from April 25 to May 1.
Why it matters: Romney has to win Florida to win the election. And Obama had been performing better against Romney -- the poll found Obama's approval rating has dropped from 51 percent in March to 46 percent today. A huge majority -- 70 percent -- erroneously think the economy is still in recession. 
Caveat: The gender gap is smaller in this state than other swing states polled, Ohio and Pennsylvania. "What appears to be keeping Romney in the ball game, at least in Florida and Ohio, is the perception he can better fix the economy," the pollster says.