With Newt Gingrich’s ceremonial exit this week, the general election is in full swing. Conservatives from all corners of the big red tent are lining up behind Mitt Romney and President Obama is using his bully pulpit to make the case to the electorate for a second term.
Despite early numbers showing President Obama with a comfortable lead in key swing states, the race has now tightened considerably. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney pulling into a statistical dead heat with Obama in Florida and Ohio. Just three weeks ago, Obama led in both prize swing states.
According to the poll, Romney now controls 44% of voters in the Sunshine State to Obama’s 43%. That one percent difference is within the poll’s margin of error making this race a virtual tie. In Ohio Romney fared slightly better, leading Obama 44% to 42%. In both states, voters concerned about the economy favored Romney over Obama, though the nation’s first black president continues to reap the benefits of a stark gender gap among women.
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The one ray of sunshine for the president in this set of polling data is that he still holds a comfortable lead over Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania. According to Quinnipiac’s results, 47% of registered Pennsylvania voters favor Obama with only 39% supporting Romney.
These results are nothing out of the ordinary. After a contentious primary, the emerging nominee always enjoys a bump in the polls. This year, Romney is benefiting from both the end of his long, hard fought primary and the perceived economic stagnation.
Florida and Ohio are both likely to be major battlegrounds in the fall, but Pennsylvania is unlikely to be competitive. Because the current electoral math favors president Obama, he probably only needs to claim one major electoral prize (Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio or Florida) to secure the White House for a second term. There are even a few outlier scenarios that have President Obama winning without any of the four mentioned above.
Romney, on the other hand, has to work overtime to make sure he doesn’t lose Florida or Ohio. No Republican presidential candidate has ever won the election without Ohio and this year Florida looks like a make-or-break as well.
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Pennsylvania, as always, will get lots of face time before inevitably turning blue. In political circles, the state is known as "fool’s gold for Republicans", and though it's likely to attract an ample amount of campaign spending look for Obama to run away with it in the fall.