Obama Expands Leads in Florida, Ohio and Pa.

Obama Expands Leads in Florida, Ohio and Pa.

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 26, 2012

President Obama has expanded his lead over Mitt Romney in three key states, garnering over 50 percent of the support from likely voters in a trio of Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times polls released Wednesday.

Respondents in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania also say Obama is better equipped than his opponent to handle the economy -- a noted shift in this race. But they are split over which candidate would better manage the budget deficit, and there is a significant gender gap in all three states.

The closest race of the three appears to be in Florida, where Obama leads Romney by 53 percent to 44 percent. The GOP nominee edges the president there among independent voters, 49 percent to 46 percent. Obama leads among women voters by nine points, while men favor Romney by three points. Obama leads among Hispanic voters -- who make up a substantial part of the electorate there -- by 14 points. Florida also has a sizable senior population, and Medicare has become a key issue in this race in light of Paul Ryan’s House budget plan to alter entitlement programs. Obama leads among voters 55 and older by eight points. By a 10-point margin, these voters say Obama would do a better job on Medicare. By a 48 percent to 46 percent margin, voters say Romney would do a better job handling the budget deficit.

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes and diverse electorate, is a valuable prize for the presidential candidates. But both men have their sights set this week on Ohio, a state that no Republican has won the presidency without carrying and where Obama and Romney campaign events will overlap on Wednesday. The president holds a 10-point lead there, attracting 53 percent of the support. Independent voters are split: 47 percent back Romney while 46 percent support Obama. The president holds a 25-point lead over Romney among women voters, while men back the GOP nominee by eight points. Romney edges Obama among white voters by three points. Obama leads by eight points among voters 55 and older -- who, by a 13-point margin, say the president would do a better job on Medicare. By a three-point margin, voters say Romney would better handle the budget deficit.

Meanwhile, Obama holds the largest lead in Pennsylvania, garnering 54 percent to Romney’s 42 percent. (These numbers mirror those reported in August.) Independents are split, 48 percent to 48 percent. Obama leads among women by 21 points. Men are split: 49 percent back Romney while 48 percent back Obama. Voters over 55 support Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent, and say the president would do a better job on Medicare than his opponent, 52 percent to 43 percent. Voters say Romney would do better on the budget deficit, 48 percent to 45 percent.

The polls come just one week before the candidates meet in Denver for their first pre-election debate. Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said that Romney’s controversial remarks released last week -- that “47 percent” of Americans are dependent on government -- are a “major factor” in Obama’s widened leads in the three states surveyed. “The debates may be Romney's best chance to reverse the trend in his favor,” Brown said in a statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate Democrats are defending their seats in all three places, and these contests mirror the presidential race. In Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson leads Republican Rep. Connie Mack, 53 percent to 39 percent. In Ohio, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown leads Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel, 50 percent to 40 percent. The Pennsylvania race, though, has tightened: Democratic Sen. Bob Casey leads Republican businessman Tom Smith, 49 percent to 43 percent.

The poll surveyed 1,196 likely voters in Florida, 1,162 likely voters in Ohio and 1,180 likely voters in Pennsylvania from Sept. 18-24. The margin of error for the Florida poll is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points; for the Ohio and Pennsylvania polls it is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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