Why Mitt Romney is rebounding in two key battlegrounds, Florida and Ohio

Mitt Romney and President Obama are now in a dead heat in Florida and Ohio, while Obama still leads in Pennsylvania, says a new poll. Two factors could be behind the trends.

Mark Makela/REUTERS
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a rally with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at Mustang Expediting in Aston, Pa., last month.

Mitt Romney has pulled back into a dead heat with President Obama in the two most important battleground states, Florida and Ohio, while Obama has widened his lead in Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday.

In Florida, Mr. Romney leads by 1 percentage point, 44 percent to 43 percent, and in Ohio, Mr. Obama leads by two percentage points, 44 percent to 42 percent. Both results are within the margin of error of 2.9 percent.

At the end of March, Quinnipiac found Obama leading Romney in Florida by 7 percentage points, 49 percent to 42 percent, and in Ohio by 6 percentage points, 47 percent to 41 percent.

In Pennsylvania, which most analysts say has a slight Democratic lean, Obama leads Romney 47 percent to 39 percent, compared with a 45 to 42 percent lead in late March.

All three states are critical barometers for the state of the race. Since 1960, no one has won the White House without winning at least two of them.

Romney’s improved numbers can be attributed to two factors, says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn.

“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,” says Mr. Brown. “Second, voter optimism about the economy has leveled off, reflecting economic statistics over the past month and the public reaction to them.”

In fact, Friday’s unemployment numbers for April could be critical to the campaign. With six months to go until Election Day, now is when voter impressions of the economy begin to set in. In the Quinnipiac poll, Romney beats Obama in Florida and Ohio on the question of who would do a better job on the economy. The candidates are nearly tied on the economy Pennsylvania.

Large majorities – at least 67 percent – of the voters in each state think the US economy is in recession. But smaller majorities – at least 51 percent – think the economy is beginning to recover.

On health care, more voters in all three states want the Supreme Court to overturn Obama’s health-care reform than want it upheld – in Florida and Ohio, by a wide margin (13 percentage points and 14 percentage points, respectively) and in Pennsylvania, by a slim margin, 46 percent to 43 percent.

Voters in all three states also think Congress should repeal the health-care law. In Florida and Ohio, majorities favor repeal. In Pennsylvania, a 46 percent plurality holds that position.

The poll also contains advice for Romney on whom to pick as his running mate. In Florida, a must-win state for Romney, 40 percent of voters want native-son freshman Sen. Marco Rubio, on the ticket. In Ohio, a native son also was the top pick: freshman Sen. Rob Portman, the choice of 26 percent. And in Pennsylvania, the governor of neighboring New Jersey, Chris Christie, won the veepstakes with 28 percent.

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