President Barack Obama speaks in Washington, D.C. (Carolyn Kaster / AP File…)
Florida, the state that bequeathed Bush vs. Gore to the American political lexicon, is once again evenly divided in a presidential race, according to a new statewide poll.
President Obama, who won Florida by 3 percentage points in 2008, holds a razor's-edge lead of 46%-45% over Republican Mitt Romney, well within the poll's margin of error. Florida promises to be one of the biggest battlegrounds of the coming campaign, with the third-largest prize of electoral college votes (tied with New York).
The poll, released Wednesday afternoon by the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston, reflects a slight improvement for Obama, who was trailing by 5 percentage points in January. Poll director David Paleologos said the improvement might be attributed to the kickoff of Obama's ad campaign in Florida and the recent anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, factors that could suggest a short-term bump. But Peleologos said the poll also showed some improvement in voters' views of the state of the nation. The percentage of people who said the country was on the right track increased from 20% in October to 31% in the latest poll.
"It's still bad news," he said in an interview, "but there appears to be some movement."
The poll provided some ammunition for those who want to see Romney select Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate. One reason for doing so would be to give Romney a boost in Florida, and the poll suggests it would do so. A hypothetical Romney-Rubio ticket outpolled a ticket of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden by 3 percentage points, with some Democrats who otherwise supported Obama abandoning him in favor of the Republican ticket.
A slight majority of those polled said they oppose Obama's healthcare plan, with just 34% supporting it. But Paleologos said that 10% of those who oppose the plan still said they plan to vote for Obama. Overall, the poll showed that jobs and the economy are not only the most important issue in the campaign, but that nothing else even comes close.
The poll did not ask directly about same-sex marriage, which now demarcates a clear divide between the candidates. It did, however, ask what was more important to voters: a candidate "you trust on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, or a candidate you trust on economic issues." Again, it wasn't even close, with 76% saying it was more important to vote for a candidate who can be trusted on the economy, and just 14% saying that was trumped by social issues.
The poll found a strong majority of Floridians supporting a loosening of the half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba.
The survey of 600 registered Florida voters was conducted by telephone from May 6-8. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Original source: Poll: Obama barely holding lead over Romney in Florida