WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama leads GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney among likely voters in three key swing states, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, in cooperation with CBS News and The New York Times. The poll shows women, in particular, favoring Obama in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.
In Florida, Obama leads Romney 51 to 45 percent; in Ohio, 50 to 44 percent; and in Pennsylvania, 53 to 42 percent. No candidate has won the White House since 1960 without winning two of those three states.
The poll numbers are worse for Romney among women. In Pennsylvania, Obama leads him among females by a 59 to 35 percent margin; in Florida, 51 to 44; and in Ohio, 58 to 37.
“The president’s strength among women is the dominant dynamic fueling his lead. It is this dynamic that argues for Romney to pick a female running mate,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a written statement.
But Jennifer Lawless, associate professor at American University and director of AU’s Women and Politics Institute, said she does not believe Romney would generate more support among female voters by picking a woman to join him on the ticket.
“I think, in fact, it would immediately draw comparisons to Sarah Palin,” said Lawless, possibly creating a polarizing effect among female voters. Lawless also said research shows running mates have a minimal effect on swaying any group of voters, including independents and women.
Instead, Republican strategists say, the best way to target women voters is for Romney to target female voters with his message about rebuilding the economy.
“Many women voters, like all voters, are concerned about the economy,” said Kristen Soltis, an adviser to the conservative super PAC Crossroads Generation, which is linked to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. Soltis is also vice president of the Republican polling firm The Winston Group.
“It’s important right now for both candidates to figure out how are they going to appeal to women on these kitchen table issues,” she said. “How would a Mitt Romney presidency make it easier for someone to pay their bills? How would a Mitt Romney presidency make it easier for someone to start a small business?”
According to data from Wednesday’s poll, Obama’s support is stronger in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania than nationally.
“Part of the reason may be that the unemployment rate in Ohio is well below the national average. In Florida it has been dropping over the past year, while nationally that has not been the case,” said Quinnipiac’s Brown.
The poll was conducted through live phone interviews among likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.