GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would tie President Obama in the vote-rich battleground state of Florida, according to a poll released on Tuesday that also shows Romney and businessman Herman Cain tied for the lead in the state's crucial early Republican primary.
One important caveat: The poll, by Boston-based Suffolk University for WSVN-TV, Miami's Fox affiliate, was taken before reports that two female subordinates received financial settlements after accusing Cain of sexual harassment in the mid-1990s, when the GOP presidential contender headed the National Restaurant Association.
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The poll shows Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney tied at 42 percent in a hypothetical general-election matchup. Five percent of those responding prefer another candidate, and 10 percent were undecided.
Of all the GOP candidates, Romney runs best against Obama. The president would defeat Cain by 3 points and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by 7 points; he also would best both of the Texans in the race, Rep. Ron Paul and Gov. Rick Perry by 12 points. Still, the highest percentage Obama can muster against any of the GOP hopefuls is 46 percent, not a promising sign for an incumbent.
In the Republican primary, Romney leads Cain, 25 percent to 24 percent, well within the +/- 5.8 percent margin of error for registered Republicans. Trailing the two front-runners are Gingrich at 11 percent, Perry at 9 percent, and Paul at 5 percent. All other candidates are at 2 percent or less.
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The poll was conducted Oct. 26-30. The Politico story about sexual-harassment allegations being leveled at Cain did not surface until the evening of Oct. 30, making it unlikely that any respondents knew of the report.
Also tested in the poll: the vice presidential prospects of freshman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., considered a rising star in the party. Suffolk rotated two other possible 2012 general-election matchups: an Obama-Biden versus generic Republican-Rubio matchup, and a ticket of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton against a generic Republican ticket. The Obama-Clinton ticket beat the generic GOP ticket, 50 percent to 41 percent. But the generic Republican-Rubio ticket edged Obama-Biden, 46 percent to 41 percent.
Asked to choose between Obama-Clinton and generic Republican-Rubio, 46 percent of voters chose the Democratic ticket, compared with 43 percent for the Republican ticket.
The poll also asked about a report that Rubio embellished the story of his family's emigration to the United States from Cuba, according to a script released by the pollster, but the television station is withholding those results until Wednesday.
There were 800 registered voters, for a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. The poll included 287 registered Republicans; those results carry the aforementioned +/- 5.8 percent margin of error.