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Obama Keeps Florida Focus in Bid to Pad Swing State Lead

 

Obama’s Florida Focus; Romney Trails in New Post/ABC Poll

President Looks to Pad His Lead With Florida Campaign Stops

“7 percent”

-- President Obama’s advantage over likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney among Florida voters in a late-March Quinnipiac University poll.

President Obama will campaign twice in Florida this week.

He will be in Boca Raton today as he intensifies his attacks on wealthy Americans who pay low tax rates on investment income – a group that includes likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Obama will also attend a pair of fundraisers in a bid to pad his cash lead over Romney.

On Friday, according to local news reports, Obama will return to the state for a stop in Tampa before he heads south to Colombia for a summit meeting.

It’s been part of a pattern of an increasing Florida focus for Obama and his campaign. The state, which turned bright red in 2010 midterm elections, was once thought to be a tough pull for Obama. A mobilized conservative base, disaffected Jewish voters and one of the nation’s worst economies seemed to be adding up to an Obama defeat in the crucial swing state.

But as the Florida’s economy has stabilized and Obama has done everything he can to prop up the huge number of underwater homeowners in the state, his chances seem to be improving. Obama has also found a galvanizing issue for the state’s large black population by embracing a black teenager killed in a shooting in suburban Orlando. And after offering a rousing argument for Israeli military defense and a public embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama may have been able to calm the concerns of Jewish voters, a key bloc in Florida elections.

Neither is it a coincidence that Obama tapped a prominent Florida congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to lead the Democratic National Committee for his re-election campaign.

But the key to Obama’s success in Florida might be his relentless campaigning in the state. He has talked about his tourism proposals at Disney World and his call for higher taxes on oil companies to finance green energy subsidies at the University of Miami.

Republicans have been complaining that Obama is able to charge taxpayers for his frequent visits to the state by categorizing his stump speeches as “official” visits. That makes all the Florida travel extra lucrative because the president can not only get a free ride but also raise money while he’s there for only the cost of reimbursing the Treasury for the equivalent cost of plane tickets for a few campaign staffers who tag along.

Those complaints, though, do little to change the wall-to-wall coverage Obama gets from local press outlets when he arrives in town. South Florida voters will be getting a heavy dose of Obama’s call for a special tax on those who earn more than $1 million a year, one of his most popular policy provisions and one aimed directly at turning Romney’s business success, probably his most positive attribute to voters, into a negative.

Romney has also suffered in Florida thanks to an acrimonious Republican primary in January in which Romney’s rivals and the political action committees supporting their candidacies were attacking the frontrunner ferociously.

Republicans are hoping to climb back in Florida and will be holding their convention there in August, but until Romney can start campaigning there, Obama is going to do whatever he can to run up the score.


Poll Check: Obama Rebounds

“50 percent”

-- President Obama’s job approval rating in the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll.

President Obama is out to a 7-point lead over likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney among registered voters surveyed by the Washington Post and ABC News.

The Post/ABC poll is generally kinder to the president’s fortunes than other major media polls. In last month’s round of polling, the Post survey was in the field at the same time as the New York Times/CBS News poll, but the Post found Obama doing 5 points better in job approval.

The Post poll is still useful for comparisons, though, and Obama’s prospects seem to have brightened. A month ago the Post had him trailing Romney by 2 points, so that’s a 9-point swing.

The poll also reinforces what we suspected about the nature of the race:

-- The presidential contest will be highly fluid, but only inside a fairly narrow bandwidth.

-- Undecided moderates are highly persuadable and will likely flit back and forth between the two candidates for the next 30 weeks.

-- The economy is powerful: Obama gained 6 points on his handling of the economy but was static in most other measurements. That was enough to propel him back to 50 percent and into the lead in the horse race.

-- Romney would be inside the margin of error if it were not for the 5 percent who said they would not vote for either major-party candidate or not vote at all if Romney is the GOP nominee. How many of those are cranky conservatives?

We also get a picture of how the electorate broadly views Romney and Obama.

(Caveat: The individual strength and weakness questions relied on the general population sample, not the smaller, more relevant pool of registered voters. The poll itself shows how using the general population can change results on horse-race questions. Among all the respondents who leaned Republican, Romney was the preferred nominee of 42 percent, compared to 22 percent for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. When limited to registered voters who leaned Republican, it was Romney, 44, Santorum, 25. Distortions can be even larger when matching up Democrats and Republicans, especially when, as is the case in this poll, there is no measure of voter intensity or likeliness to vote.)

Romney’s strongest categories against Obama are on handling of deficit spending, the economy overall and energy policy. Obama excels at “protecting the middle class,” foreign affairs, terrorism, social issues and “women’s issues.” On everything else, the two men are close to each other.

Part of Obama’s advantage on social issues likely stems from the Santorum holdouts who are skeptical of Romney’s rightward migration on their issues. Five percent volunteered “neither” when asked to compare Obama and Romney on topics like gay marriage and abortion.

On personal attributes, Obama cleaned up against Romney. Sixty-four percent said Obama was more friendly and likable and 55 percent said he was more inspiring. Obama’s biggest liability among personal attributes – the 40 percent that said he was “too liberal.” That’s 7 points worse than Romney’s 33 percent score on being “too conservative.”

The sleeper issue of this race, though, looks to be Romney’s Mormon faith. Thirteen percent of respondents said his faith was a major reason to oppose the former Massachusetts governor against Obama. Look for Obama to maintain or enhance his already increased public displays of mainline Christianity, such as attending an Episcopalian services. Also look for the establishment press to examine the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at great length this summer.


And Now, A Word From Charles

“It’s national in the sense that other states are going to look at this and decide are the governors going to risk curtailing the power of government unions after Wisconsin if the governor is recalled.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” discussing the importance of the June 5 gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin.


Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.