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Obama Leading In Three Swing State Polls

President Obama’s surprisingly strong performance in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll notwithstanding bad news about the economy the public’s generally sour mood about the state of the country isn’t the only surprising polling news out today. Quinnipiac came out this morning with results of polling in three swing states showing the President leading Mitt Romney where it really matters, in the battle for the Electoral Votes that will actually win this election:

(CNN) - Polls released Wednesday showed President Barack Obama narrowly edging his Republican rival Mitt Romney in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio – three battlegrounds that went for Obama in 2008 but will be toss ups in November.

The polls from Quinnipiac University showed Obama with a razor-thin four point advantage in Florida, 45%-41%. That was within the poll’s 2.8% sampling error. In Pennsylvania, Obama’s led Romney 45%-39%, and in Ohio, the Democratic incumbent was ahead 47%-38%.

Off the bat, I’ve got to say that I question the idea that Pennsylvania is a “swing state” this year any mroe than it has been in any other election. Republicans have not won the State since Bush 41 beat Dukakis there in 1988, and that victory was by less than 110,000 votes. Since then, Democrats have won the state every single time, often by rather decisive margins. The closest Republicans have come in that 24 years was in 2004 when George W. Bush came within about 200,000 votes of beating John Kerry. In 2008, though, Barack Obama won the state by more than 600,000 votes. Every single time, though, there has been a time, usually lasting through some time in October when pundits and Republicans have tried to perpetuate the meme that the GOP has a chance of winning the Keystone State this time. One political analyst has compared this Pennsylvania meme to Charlie Brown and the football, with the football being Pennsylvania and the GOP being Charlie Brown. Perhaps this will be a different year, the GOP has had some electoral success in the state since 2008 after all, but at the moment the RealClearPolitics Average gives Obama an 8 point lead there, and that simply isn’t a “swing state”

Notwithstanding this, the numbers from Pennsylvania are worth taking a look at:

In Pennsylvania, a state the president also won in 2008, Obama’s lead is strengthened by strong gender gap. He leads Romney 48%-36% among women, while among men, he’s statistically tied with Romney, 41%-42%.

Pennsylvanians were split on which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, with 44% naming Obama and 44% naming Romney. Those numbers reflect a shift from previous polls, which gave Romney an edge on handling of the economy.

“For much of the last year, more voters in these swing states have said Romney would do a better job on the economy. That advantage has largely disappeared, at least for now,” Brown wrote.

The biggest news in these numbers, of course, is the gender gap, which has been a problem for Republicans for decades, but which has become more of an issue in the past several months due to controversies that have erupted over issues ranging from coverage for contraceptives in insurance policies to the plethora of state legislatures that have tried to pass laws restriction abortion access. I suspect we’ll see this pop up in many state-level polls over the coming months.

There’s no question, of course, that Florida is a swing state, and that it’s played a decisive role in every Presidential election since 2000. This year is no different, and while the conventional wisdom has been that the Sunshine State is the one swing state where Romney is best poised for  a victory, the Quinnipiac numbers show us the extent to which the immigration issue, and the GOP’s Latino problems, are having an impact in battleground states:

In Florida, Obama’s small advantage is bolstered by strong backing from Florida Latinos, who support Obama over Romney 56%-32%.

The president and Romney both addressed a Latino gathering in Orlando last week following Obama’s decision in early June to allow some young illegal immigrants to avoid deportation. Wednesday poll showed a jump in Latino support for Obama in Florida from earlier in June, when he enjoyed a ten point lead over Romney.

Floridians, by large measure, support Obama’s immigration directive, which would allow some young people brought to the United States illegally to apply for a work permit. Applicants must be under the age of 30 and brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, have been in the country for at least five consecutive years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military.

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed in Florida support Obama’s new immigration measure, compared to 33% who do not support the initiative. Overall, 46% said Obama would do a better job than Romney handling immigration.

On the economy, however, Floridians were more confident in Romney. Forty-six percent said the former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate would handle the economy better, compared to 44% who named Obama.

In addition to the Latino gap, looking at the poll itself, we see that Florida shows the same Gender Gap that we see in Pennsylvania, with Obama leading 47 – 40 percent among women, while men are divided with 43 percent for Obama and 42 percent for Romney. That said, it’s worth noting that the RCP average has Florida as essentially a dead heat with Obama leading by an average of 1.8% so, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from this single poll. Florida is going to be a closely fought race all the way up to the day before Election Day, of course, and I’d say that it’s probably the one of the three surveyed here where the GOP has the best chance of flipping the result from 2008. As these numbers, and especially the cross-tabs noted above, show, however, is that Republican problems with key demographic groups have the potential to make a huge difference in a closely fought election.

Finally, we come to Ohio, which has also played a key role in recent elections. In 2004, of course, it was Ohio that ended up making the Electoral College difference and putting George W. Bush back in the White House. More importantly, no Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio. The RCP Average for the Buckeye State currently shows the President with a 2.6% advantage, so this one is officially a toss-up, but the underlying numbers seem to be in the President’s favor:

Ohio, which the CNN Map rates a “Toss Up,” also showed a marked gender gap on presidential preference. Men were split, with 45% backing Obama and 42% backing Romney. Women, however, were more likely to back Obama, with 50% saying the support the president and 35% backing Romney.

Obama was well ahead of Romney on favorability – 50% said they viewed the president favorably, compared to only 32% who said the same of his Republican opponent. On the flip side, 44% viewed Obama unfavorably, compared to 46% viewed Romney that way.

More details from the poll itself:

Obama gets a 50 – 44 percent favorability rating, compared to Romney’s negative 32 – 46 percent favorability score.

Ohio voters give the president a split 48 – 46 percent job approval rating and say by a tepid 49 – 46 percent that he deserves to be reelected.

Voters say 47 – 42 percent, however, that Obama would do a better job on the economy than Romney and say 47 – 42 percent that the president would be better for their personal economic future

Voters back Obama’s immigration policy 52 – 38 percent and say 45 – 38 percent he would do a better job than Romney on immigration.

Obama gets a 50 – 44 percent favorability rating, compared to Romney’s negative 32 – 46 percent favorability score.

Ohio voters give the president a split 48 – 46 percent job approval rating and say by a tepid 49 – 46 percent that he deserves to be reelected.

Voters say 47 – 42 percent, however, that Obama would do a better job on the economy than Romney and say 47 – 42 percent that the president would be better for their personal economic future.

Voters back Obama’s immigration policy 52 – 38 percent and say 45 – 38 percent he would do a better job than Romney on immigration.

There are several points one can draw from these results. Primarily, it appears that the Gender Gap is still a real thing and his having an impact at the state level. Given the fact that it’s generally the case that women are more likely to vote than men, this suggests that the President has a built-in advantage going into the race for Electoral Votes that Romney’s team is going to have to figure out how to knock down somehow, or counteract by picking up votes somewhere else. Additionally, we see that Romney’s favorability ratings, which had recovered somewhat after the Republican primary race, have started to dip down again with the President’s favorability remains relatively high. This suggests that the anti-Bain attacks have had an impact on the ground. Finally, the President’s immigration stance seems to have not only not hurt him, but actually helped him to some degree, even among non-Latino voters and in states like Ohio where one would expect that concerns about immigration in general would be more prevalent given the state of the economy.

There are plenty of caveats to keep in mind here,of course. These are polls of Registered Voters rather than Likely Voters (although there are pollsters who will argue that we are still too early in the cycle to try to construct a Likely Voter model for an election that’s still give months away). They are merely one snapshot in time at a point in the race where both campaigns are just beginning to rev up their on-the-ground operations. And, they may not be fully measuring how much attention voters are paying attention to the race. Nonetheless, these three states together represent 67 Electoral Votes, just under one quarter of what’s needed to win the election, and the President seems to be in a very good position in each one of them. Most importantly, it points out a vulnerability for Mitt Romney. When Election Night comes around, you’ll be able to tell how the night is going to go by what comes out of Florida and Ohio. If Romney loses both, it’s unlikely he can win the election. If he loses Florida, indeed, it would seem impossible for him to have a viable path to 270. And, if he loses Ohio, the only way he could win would be to do something that no Republican going all the way back to Abraham Lincoln has been able to do.

James Joyner said this at the end of his post this morning on the NBC/WSJ poll:

 Given the horrible state of the economy and the public’s extreme recognition and focus on that fact, this should be Romney’s election to lose. That he’s still behind should be of great concern to his supporters.

That applies equally to these swing state results, I would submit.

Update: Ed Morrissey points to this Politico piece about a new PPP poll that shows a slightly different result in Ohio:

President Obama’s lead in Ohio has narrowed, according to a new survey.

Obama leads Mitt Romney 47 percent to 44 percent in the Buckeye State, according to the latest poll by the Democratic-leaning firm PPP.  But that’s down from a seven point lead that he maintained in the last two PPP surveys of the state.

Obama is clinging to his lead based on his strength with three demographic groups: black voters, young voters and women. Obama leads among African-Americans 93 percent to 6 percent, and he beats Romney among young voters 54 percent to 36 percent. Women support Obama over Romney 52 percent to 41 percent.

That three point lead is inside the margin of error, as opposed to the nine point lead that Quinnipiac shows, and the RCP Average with both polls factored in puts Obama’s advantage at 2.6%, so that Quinipiac poll may be an outlier. At the same time, though it’s worth noting that the PPP Poll shows some of the same demographic issues for Romney that the Quinnipiac poll does.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    “I’ve got to say that I question the idea that Pennsylvania is a “swing state” this year any mroe than it has been in any other election.”

    The Republican Majority Leader in the PA State House thinks it will be won by Romney due to the new Voter ID law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. Ron says:

    PEOPLE, THERE ARE THREE CCANDIDATES NOT JUST TWO.
    HIS NAME IS GARY JOHNSON & IS MUCH BETTER FOR USA
    DON’T BE FOOLED BY INCOMPLETE POLLS BY THE DUOPOLY.

    GARY JOHNSON 2012
    Para todos, for all of us
    http://Www.garyjohnson2012.com/about

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  3. MBunge says:

    The thing to always remember when talking about the gender gap is that there’s clearly a racial element to it and that’s with every Democrat, not just Obama. Given Democratic advantages among minority groups, both men and women, what those numbers say is that Obama is able to hold his own or be slightly ahead among white women but decisively loses white men. That’s the source of GOP weakness. Their base is such a large and diverse group, culturally and economically, that the things they have to do to polarize and motivate them wind up hurting Republicans with every other aspect of the electorate.

    Mike

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  4. Anonne says:

    The Bain attacks are indeed more effective on the ground. Just because the pundit class wants to dismiss them doesn’t mean that all the people follow. The attack on the idea that Romney was creating jobs when he was milking corporations for cash is pretty powerful and apparently effective. I mean, really – the man sent state jobs to India while he was governor of Massachusetts. Stuff like that doesn’t play well.

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  5. SKI says:

    @Ron: First, don’t scream.
    Second, if and when Johnson gets within cannon-signaling distance of winning a single electoral vote, then it would be relevant to consider this a three-way race

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Cycloptichorn says:

    “When Election Night comes around, you’ll be able to tell how the night is going to go by what comes out of Florida and Ohio. If Romney loses both, it’s unlikely he can win the election. ”

    Not only unlikely, it’s astronomically unlikely that he’ll win the election if he loses both. It’s unlikely he’ll win the election if he loses EITHER. Romney basically needs to run the table on the swing states in order to win, thanks to the Dems advantages in EV’s from NY, IL and CA.

    I’m having a pretty hard time envisioning a scenario in which Romney loses OH and still wins the election, even if he gets FL.

    As to your overall point, yes, these numbers are not good for Romney and they do point to the fact that the electorate doesn’t really like the guy.

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  7. Ron Beasley says:

    @Anonne: I agree – while the Bain attacks did not play well in NY and DC where the pundit class resides there is evidence it has played well in states like PA, OH and WI.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1