Washington Post polls: Obama lead in Ohio, edge in Fla. hamper Romney path to victory
By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 7:00 AM
President Obama has grabbed a significant lead over Mitt Romney in Ohio and holds a slender edge in Florida, according to two new polls by the Washington Post that indicate there are fresh hurdles in the way of the Republican nominee’s best route to victory in the Electoral College.
Among likely voters, Obama is ahead of Romney in Ohio by 52 to 44 percent. In Florida, the president is up 51 to 47 percent, a numerical but not statistically significant edge. Among all registered Florida voters, Obama is up nine percentage points.
The new numbers come one week after a Washington Post poll in Virginia showing Obama with a clear lead there. More than half of all money spent in the campaign has focused on these three states, and many analysts say Romney has to win two of the three to capture the White House.
The past few weeks have been difficult for the Romney campaign, and the nominee’s advisers vowed to hit the reset button this week. But with the first debate scheduled for Oct. 3, the Romney is under new pressure to get his campaign refocused.
The new polls add to the evidence that Obama has benefited most from the two parties’ conventions, a series of sharp, long-distance exchanges and a barrage of television ads. Nationally, polls continue to show a close race, but with new-found momentum for Obama in the battleground states that are likely to decide the election.
There are few plausible ways for Romney to win the election were he to lose both Florida and Ohio; even losing one of them would make a path to victory exceedingly narrow. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio, for example, and Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, may be even more vital to Romney’s hopes.
Both campaigns had thought of Florida as potentially more hospitable to Romney than to the president. Obama’s competitive standing there — benefiting, as he also did in the Virginia poll, from a huge lead among female voters — spotlights Romney’s recent struggles. For its part, Ohio has been the scene of hard-fought campaigns the past three elections and is widely seen as a barometer of economic stress.
Obama’s lead in Ohio is built in part on generally positive assessments of his job performance, and on head-to-head comparisons with Romney on a series of issues. Slightly more than half of all Ohio voters — 53 percent — give Obama positive marks for in dealing with the economy, with more — 56 percent approving of his overall performance.
Fully 36 percent of all Ohio voters say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign; 29 percent say they have been contacted by the Romney side.
Matched against Romney, 50 percent of all voters say they trust the president more to deal with the economy; 43 percent say so of his Republican challenger. By a much wider margin, 57 to 34 percent, registered voters in Ohio say Obama rather than Romney better understands the economic problems that people are facing. Obama also holds a big lead over Romney on who is trusted to advance the interests of the middle class.
There is far less difference, however, in the confidence voters express about whether the economy would improve more rapidly under a second Obama administration or a Romney White House.
The federal bailout of the automobile industry has been the focus of considerable debate between the candidates when they have touched down in Ohio. The poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Ohio voters say the loans that went to General Motors and Chrysler were mostly good for the state’s economy.
Still, most voters in Ohio say the economy is in bad shape. Yet even those people do not entirely blame Obama, with just under half of them saying the bad economy is his fault — about the same as the number who point the finger at the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich.
Just 38 percent of Ohio voters rate the state’s economy as “excellent” or “good.” Among those who do see things positively, most — 68 percent — give Obama at least some credit for it. Nearly as many — 59 percent — credit Kasich.
In Ohio, Obama holds double-digit leads over Romney as the one earning more voter trust on five other issues, including Medicare, Medicaid, taxes, social issues and international affairs. He is numerically ahead on two others. Romney’s best issue is the federal budget deficit, where the two run about evenly among all voters and he has an apparent edge among those most likely to vote.
As was the case in the Virginia poll, Obama benefits in both Florida and Ohio from sizable, double-digit advantages among female voters. In Ohio, male likely voters split about evenly between Obama and Romney. In Florida, 53 percent of men back Romney, and 45 percent support Obama.
In both states, Romney has the edge among white voters, while Obama wins 91 of non-white likely voters in Ohio and 74 percent in Florida.
Obama’s approval ratings in Florida, like those in Ohio, put him above the critical 50 percent threshold. Overall, 55 percent of Florida voters give him positive marks as president and 52 percent say they approve of his handling of the economy.
One potential opportunity for Romney in the Sunshine State is that he runs about evenly with the president when it comes to who is trusted to handle the economy. But, by a whopping 60 to 35 percent margin, Florida voters say they trust Obama rather than Romney to advance the interests of the middle class. By 14 percentage points, they side with the president as the one with greater empathy toward people’s economic problems.
The government’s health care program for the elderly was the focus of sharp debate in the weeks after Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate. Today in Florida, the president runs 15 percentage points ahead of his challenger on whom voters would trust more to determine the future of Medicare.
In general in Florida, Obama’s advantages over Romney on other issues are smaller than those in Ohio, and the two are essentially tied on dealing with the deficit and taxes.
Polling manager Peyton M. Craighill and polling analyst Scott Clement contributed to this report.