Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney runs even with President Barack Obama 45 – 45 percent in Florida, while the president holds a strong 50 – 39 percent lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Today’s results compare to a 46 – 43 percent Romney lead over Obama January 11 and a 47 – 40 percent Romney lead September 22.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum trails Obama 49 – 40 percent while Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul trails the president 47 – 39 percent.
Romney also scores substantially better when non-Republicans are asked whether they see a candidate favorably or not.
“At least in Florida and at least at this point in the campaign, the data indicates that Gov. Mitt Romney is clearly the stronger Republican candidate against President Barack Obama,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “As our mothers told us growing up, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s initial impression on the overall Florida electorate is not a positive one. It is certainly possible that Gingrich can change the overall unfavorable view that Florida voters have of him, but for him to carry Florida in November he would have to prove mother wrong.
“But Romney has his own problems against Obama as Florida voters say both men are equally competent, but 54 – 39 percent that the president is more inspiring, 50 – 43 percent that Obama would a better job in a crisis and 48 – 42 percent that Obama cares more about them.”
Florida voters, however, say 50 – 41 percent that Romney would do a better job on the critical issue of the economy. Voters split 47 – 45 percent on Obama and Gingrich on the economy. Obama and Romney split 46 – 45 percent on who would best handle foreign policy. Obama tops Gingrich 49 – 43 percent on foreign policy. Obama and Romney also split 46 – 45 percent on who is a stronger leader. The president tops Gingrich 51 – 41 percent as a stronger leader. Voters say Obama is more trustworthy than Romney, 47 – 42 percent and 57 – 35 percent over Gingrich.
“On a whole host of measures, the overall electorate sees Romney in a more favorable light vis a vis President Obama than Gingrich,” said Brown.
In the Romney-Obama dead heat, Romney has 42 percent of independent voters to Obama’s 41 percent. The president has a healthy 50 – 33 percent margin over Gingrich among that key group. Against Obama, Romney wins Republicans 88 – 7 percent, while losing Democrats 86 – 6 percent.
Romney carries men 49 – 40 percent against Obama and loses women 50 – 40 percent. Romney wins white voters 56 – 34 percent, while Obama carries blacks 89 – 2 percent and Hispanics 54 – 35 percent.
On favorability, Romney gets a thumbs up 43 – 37 percent among all Florida voters, compared to Gingrich’s negative 32 – 50 percent rating. Among independent voters, Romney is 45 – 38 percent favorable and Gingrich is negative 27 – 56 percent.
“The fact that a big majority of Florida independents have an unfavorable view of Gingrich is an indication of the steep hill he must climb to win in November,” said Brown.
The president has a split 49 – 48 percent favorability rating among registered voters. He gets a negative 46 – 52 percent job approval, however. Independent voters give him a negative 43 – 53 percent job rating.
Florida voters split 47 – 49 percent on whether Obama deserves a second term in the Oval Office. Independent voters say no 49 – 44 percent.
From January 19 – 23, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,518 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.