Add Florida to the list of key swing states where the weakness of the Republican front runners for President in 2012 would allow Barack Obama to win again if the election was today, despite his own less than stellar poll numbers. Obama leads Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin by greater margins than his victory over John McCain in the state in 2008, with only Mitt Romney running closer to Obama than McCain did.
Obama's approval rating in the state is just 45%, with 49% of voters disapproving of him. His numbers with Democrats leave something to be desired at just a 69/24 approval spread and Republicans predictably are pretty universal in their disapproval of him at 81%. But his numbers with independents are among his best anywhere in the country at 59% approving and 35% disapproving of him and that puts his overall numbers at least at a respectable level.
Florida voters may not be enamored with Obama but they don't really like the leading Republican contenders either. Sarah Palin is incredibly unpopular at a 36/57 favorability and Newt Gingrich isn't a whole lot better at 36/47. Mike Huckabee's numbers are more respectable at a 41/43 spread and only Mitt Romney has more voters with a positive than negative opinion of him at 43/38.
Romney comes closest to Obama in the hypothetical head to head match ups but still trails 46-44. You might think that with Romney having postive favorability numbers and Obama's approval under water that he would be in the lead. The problem for Romney on that front is that while 31% of Democrats like him, only 20% of them are actually willing to vote for him against Obama. On the other hand pretty much everyone who likes Obama is also committed to voting for him.
What would really help Obama's chances of taking Florida again is if the Republicans nominated Sarah Palin for President. Obama leads her by a stunning 14 point margin, 52-38. The last Democrat to take Florida by such a large margin? Usually you just have to go back to LBJ and Barry Goldwater for those comparisons but for the Sunshine State you actually have to go even further to Harry Truman's election in 1948. Part of Palin's problem is hesitance on the part of Republicans to support her- she gets only 63% of her own party's vote- but her biggest issue is independents where she trails Obama by a whooping 41 points at 67-26. We've had a lot of polls show that Palin would be a disaster for the GOP but this might be the starkest evidence of it yet.
Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich each trail Obama by 5 points, a margin slightly larger than his victory in the state in 2008. It's 49-44 against Huckabee and 47-42 against Gingrich.
Obama's relatively weak approval numbers in Florida make it clear that he could lose the state in 2012 and against Romney he'd start out in something approaching a toss up. Beyond that though if Republicans want to win Florida their candidates either need to really step up their games...or they need to find some fresher, stronger candidates.
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