A Quinnipiac University survey of Ohio released on Wednesday shows Mitt Romney holding a comfortable edge over his Republican primary rivals in the key battleground state, leading with 27 percent of the vote.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are locked in a battle for second place, at 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, while Rep. Ron Paul of Texas trails at just 10 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry sits in last place, at 4 percent.
Romney’s advantageous numbers in the Buckeye State -- whose primary will be held on Super Tuesday in early March -- are reflective of national polls, which show him close to surging beyond the GOP field's reach after back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Gallup’s Daily Tracking Poll reported on Tuesday that the front-runner stood at 34 percent nationally, more than double the support of his next-closest opponent.
But maybe more importantly for the candidate on the verge of winning his party’s nomination, his strength transfers into the general election: Quinnipiac found Obama only narrowly edging past Romney in Ohio, 44 percent to 42 percent. The head-to-head matchup between the two men has been tight since the summer -- no more than four points have separated them in five Quinnipiac surveys since July.
That’s a good sign for Romney in what has historically been the country’s quintessential battleground state. And it’s yet another warning for Obama that despite a recent uptick in the polls, he remains weak with the white working-class voters who still constitute the state’s largest electoral bloc.
Just 35 percent of white voters without a college education approve of the president’s performance, the poll found. Although Obama does slightly better among white voters with a college education (44 percent approve), only 38 percent of whites overall in Ohio think he deserves reelection.
Among all voters in the state, a majority, 51 percent, disapprove of his performance -- only 44 percent approve. His numbers are worse among independents, who disapprove of him by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin.
Obama’s struggles with blue-collar whites, which date back to his 2008 campaign, are a primary reason he has shifted his focus away from older, whiter states like Ohio to more diverse states like Virginia and North Carolina, whose minority populations remain more supportive of the president. If Obama wants to repeat his 2008 victory in the Buckeye State, he'll need to make inroads with a group of voters who have taken a resiliently stubborn view of his presidency.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,610 registered voters from Jan. 9 to Jan. 16 for the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points. For the GOP primary, 542 Republican voters were surveyed, for a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.