Obama Tops Romney in Pennsylvania Poll as Ohio Tightens

President Barack Obama is leading presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, while the matchup between them has tightened in two other states critical to the general election’s outcome, a Quinnipiac University poll shows.

Obama tops Romney 47 percent to 39 percent in Pennsylvania, according to the April 25-May 1 poll released today, an improvement in the president’s showing compared with a similar survey in late March. In Ohio and Florida, though, the president has lost ground.

In Ohio, Obama is up by 2 percentage points, 44 percent to 42 percent, while Romney leads by 1 point in Florida, 44 percent to 43 percent. In March’s Quinnipiac poll, Obama led Romney by 6 points in Ohio and 7 points in Florida.

Romney has gained in Ohio and Florida “to the point that those two states are essentially tied,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. His improvement “reflects two changes in the political environment,” Brown said in a statement.

“First, since he is now the de facto nominee, Romney is no longer being attacked by his fellow Republicans who are closing ranks behind him,” he said. “Second, voter optimism about the economy has leveled off.”

‘Perception on Economy’

No one has won the White House since 1960 without carrying at least two of the three states in the poll. Obama won all three in 2008, when he defeated that year’s Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

“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,” Brown said.

Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania expanded due in part to Obama’s surge among women, a group he leads 52 percent to 35 percent in the state. Also, more voters in Pennsylvania than in Ohio or Florida say they think the economy is beginning to recover, according to the poll.

As Romney’s camp vets potential running mates, the poll finds native sons -- or those close to it -- favored in each state.

In Florida, 40 percent of voters back the state’s freshman U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, for the Republican ticket’s vice presidential slot. He was followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, with 14 percent, while no other contender gets more than 7 percent support.

Prospective Running Mates

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, also a freshman, leads the running mate prospects in his state with 26 percent, while Rubio and Christie each get 14 percent.

In Pennsylvania, which borders New Jersey, Christie runs first among the vice-presidential prospects with 28 percent, followed by Rubio with 15 percent. No one else tops 8 percent.

The poll’s margin of error in each state is plus-or-minus 2.9 percentage points. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,169 voters in Florida, 1,130 in Ohio and 1,168 in Pennsylvania.

The three states combined have 67 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Ohio has been carried by the winner of every presidential election since 1964, and Florida sided with a loser only once over that period -- in 1992 when it backed then-President George H.W. Bush over Democrat Bill Clinton. Pennsylvania has been reliably Democratic in its presidential contest since the 1992 vote.

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