WASHINGTON - Republican challenger Mitt Romney has gained substantial ground against US President Barack Obama in two key swing states, while Obama has widened his lead in a third, a poll released Thursday found.
Quinnipiac University said the presumptive Republican nominee in the presidential campaign is now leading 44-43 percentage points in Florida, erasing a seven-point deficit in the large, southeastern battleground state from five weeks earlier.
In the Midwestern state of Ohio – which history dictates Republicans must carry in order to win the White House – Obama’s six-point lead has eroded to just two points, labeled “too close to call” as it’s within the poll’s margin of error.
“Governor Mitt Romney has closed President Barack Obama’s leads in Ohio and Florida to the point that those two states are now essentially tied, a turnaround from the end of March when the president enjoyed leads in those key states,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“The good news for the president is that he has an eight-point lead in Pennsylvania, approaching the 11-point margin he had in carrying the Keystone State in 2008,” Brown added. Obama was up by three points in the March poll.
With November now six months away, focus has intensified on about a dozen battleground states that experts say will decide the 2012 election. They include states like Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia.
Brown attributes Romney’s gains in Florida and Ohio to his status as the “de facto nominee,” meaning he is no longer being broadly attacked by rivals in the Republican Party, which is closing ranks behind him.
“Second, voter optimism about the economy has leveled off, reflecting economic statistics over the past month and the public reaction to them.”
Voters in Florida and Ohio say Romney, an ex-governor of Massachusetts and multi-millionaire investor, would do a better job handling the economy, while Pennsylvanians are divided, according to the poll, which surveyed more than 1,100 voters in each state and has a margin of error of 2.9 percent.