Both campaigns had thought of Florida as potentially more hospitable to Romney than to the president. But Obama’s competitive standing there — he is benefiting, as he did in the Virginia poll, from a huge lead among female voters — spotlights his challenger’s recent struggles.
For its part, Ohio has been the scene of hard-fought campaigns the past three elections and is widely considered a barometer of economic stress. Obama’s lead in the state 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 on his handling of the economy, with more, 56 percent, approving of his overall performance.
Thirty-six 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.
Fifty 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 percent to 34 percent, registered voters in Ohio say Obama rather than Romney better understands the economic problems people are facing. The president also holds a big lead over his rival 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 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 — Medicare, Medicaid, taxes, social issues and international affairs — and he is numerically ahead on two others. Romney’s best issue is the federal budget deficit; on this, the two candidates run about evenly among all voters, and Romney has an apparent edge among those most likely to vote.
Obama benefits in both Florida and Ohio from double-digit advantages among female voters. In Ohio, male likely voters split about evenly between the president and his challenger. 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 percent of nonwhite 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 60 percent to 35 percent, 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.
Medicare, the government’s health-care program for the elderly, was the focus of sharp debate in the weeks after Romney selected Ryan as his running mate. Today in Florida, the president runs 15 percentage points ahead of his challenger on whom voters trust more to determine the future of the program.
Peyton M. Craighill, Scott Clement, Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.