Mitt Romney during a campaign rally in Irwin, Pa. (Win McNamee / Getty Images )
Evidence continues to mount that Pennsylvania may not be the political battleground it used to be.
The first poll of Pennsylvania voters since Mitt Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) found the new Republican ticket did nothing to improve Romney's chances in the state, whose 20 electoral votes make it one of the biggest election-night prizes.
President Obama boasts a nine-point lead over Romney in the state, 49%-40%, according to a poll by the Allentown Morning Call and Muhlenberg College released Thursday morning.
In other recent statewide polls, Obama's lead has ranged from 12 points to 6 points, but he's consistently been ahead. In 2008, Obama won Pennsylvania by 10 points. The state has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate for the last two decades.
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Notably, Obama appears to have maintained his lead despite weak job approval -- 47% of the voters surveyed said they disapprove of the job he's doing in the White House, compared with 43% who said they approve.
"Nine points is a very good place to be going into the conventions," said Chris Borick, Muhlenberg College pollster. "And this comes despite very mediocre reviews of his performance among likely voters and personal favorability numbers that aren't as strong as they used to be. Pennsylvania voters are by no means thrilled with what they see from President Obama, but they are unimpressed with alternative, which is Mitt Romney."
"Romney's favorability is fairly dismal," Borick added.
Nearly half of likely voters surveyed, 48%, said they have an overall favorable impression of Obama, while just 37% said the same of Romney, the poll found. And nearly half, 49%, said they have a negative view of the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney's new running mate doesn't fare much better. About one-third of likely voters in the survey said they have a favorable view of Ryan, with another third saying they have an unfavorable opinion of him. A quarter of those surveyed said they are neutral or unsure about the GOP vice presidential pick.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is best known for authoring a plan to revamp Medicare, the popular entitlement program for the elderly and disabled, so that future retirees could choose to receive a stipend from the government to purchase private insurance over traditional Medicare.
He and Republicans say it's the best way to ensure Medicare remains solvent. Democrats have vilified the plan as the end of Medicare.
Pennsylvania has one of the nation's largest populations of senior citizens. When likely voters in the survey were asked who they trust more to handle Medicare, they heavily favored Obama over Romney -- 47% to 34%.
The poll of 422 likely voters was conducted Monday, Aug. 20 through Wednesday, Aug. 22 and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
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