Herman Cain leads the Republican primary field in Florida and Ohio and ties with Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, while Newt Gingrich has surged into third place in the three critical battleground states, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday.
In Florida, Cain attracts 27 percent of the support from Republican voters while Romney garners 21 percent. Gingrich rounds out the top three with 17 percent. None of the remaining candidates polls above 5 percent. While Cain leads the field in Florida, he provides weaker opposition to President Obama than Romney. In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, the president attracts 45 percent of the support compared to Cain's 41 percent. Romney holds a 45 percent to 42 percent lead over Obama. Gingrich comes within striking distance of Obama in the Sunshine State, trailing the president, 45 percent to 42 percent. Obama leads Rick Perry, 46 percent to 40 percent. Still, Obama's approval ratings are low: 52 percent disapprove of the job he is doing as president while 41 percent approve. By a 51 percent to 43 percent margin, voters say he does not deserve another term in the White House.
"Of these three swing states President Obama carried in 2008, Florida was the biggest surprise and had the closest margin," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement released with the results. "Florida is shaping up to be the closest swing state again in 2012 and it's a fair bet that a year from now, it will be the toughest of the Big Three for Obama to carry."
Cain also tops the ballot in Ohio with 25 percent of the support. Romney attracts 20 percent, and Gingrich places third with 11 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul receives 9 percent, and none of the remaining candidates polls above 4 percent.
Obama leads Romney, 45 percent to 42 percent, and tops Cain, 48 percent to 38 percent, in Ohio. The president defeats Gingrich and Perry by 12 points each. Still, Obama struggles with an upside-down approval rating in the Buckeye State: 50 percent of voters disapprove of his job performance while 44 percent approve. Voters are split, though, on whether he deserves re-election. The poll's director sees some hope for Obama in Ohio. "This week's voter repeal of the state law curbing collective bargaining, and the negative 36-51 percent job approval rating for Republican Gov. John Kasich, however, give the White House hope that the Buckeye State might not be out of reach," Brown said.
Meanwhile, Cain and Romney tie with 17 percent of the support from GOP voters in Pennsylvania. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum ties with Gingrich at 13 percent. The rest of the field polls below 6 percent.
Obama tops his potential Republican challengers in the Keystone State, though, as in the other states, he has to contend with tough approval ratings. The president holds a slight 44 percent to 43 percent edge over Romney and beats both Cain and Gingrich, 48 percent to 38 percent. Obama leads Perry, 47 percent to 38 percent.
However, 52 percent of voters disapprove of the way the president is handling his job, while 44 percent give him a positive grade. By a 50 percent to 46 percent margin, voters say Obama should not be given another term in the White House.
Also in Pennsylvania, the Republican governor's status might help Obama's rivals. "Interestingly, while the unpopularity of the Republican governors in Florida and Ohio might help the president there, in Pennsylvania chief executive Tom Corbett is doing a little better and might at the margins tip the scale the other way," Brown said.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,185 Florida voters, including 513 Republicans. That poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The sampling error for Republican is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. In Ohio, the poll surveyed 1,312 voters, including 443 Republicans. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. The sampling error for Republicans there is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. And in Pennsylvania, Quinnipiac polled 1,436 voters, including 579 Republicans. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. The sampling error for Republicans is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. All surveys were conducted from Oct. 31-Nov. 7.