For the first time since the ugly Republican primaries ended with a Mitt Romney win, the GOP nominee has opened up a clear lead over President Obama among Florida voters, mostly for one, simple reason: the economy, stupid.
More surprising than the six point lead Romney nabbed in a new poll out this morning is the fact that voters -- also for the first time -- said that adding Sen. Marco Rubio to his ticket would help his chances. Rubio bumped Romney's poll numbers by more than two percentage points in his home state.
The new poll by Quinnipiac University Polling surveyed 1,722 registered Florida voters between May 15 - 21, the AP reports. Those voters preferred Romney over Obama 47 to 41 percent.
There were other troubling signs for the president in the poll, including that Romney is viewed mostly favorably (44 to 35 percent) while Obama is now viewed mostly negatively (45 to 50 percent).
Even more vitally, the economy seems to be a wedge issue: 50 percent say Romney is the best man to fix the markets; only 40 percent think the same about Obama.
"Gov. Mitt Romney has slipped into the lead in Florida and that standing is confirmed by his much better numbers than the president when voters are asked whether they view the candidates favorably or unfavorably," Peter A. Brown, assistant vice president of the polling firm, tells the Herald.
What's most surprising about the poll, though, is that Rubio might just help Romney win the Sunshine State if he joins the ticket. Polls had repeatedly shown the opposite, but the latest finds that Rubio would add two points to Romney.
As the Herald's Marc Caputo points out this morning, two points matters big-time in a state as purple as Florida; the last three presidential races here were decided by an average of 2.6 percent of the votes.
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And yeah, polls this far in advance of a presidential race are sort of inherently stupid because all kinds of crazy stuff will happen this summer. The numbers are sure to change when Romney is unmasked as a lizard person bent on colonizing earth for his homeworld, then swing back again when Obama gets caught saying he "loves" and "respects" Fidel Castro.
But until the shenanigans really start going down, today's poll is interesting for the trend it's showing in Florida. Similar surveys in April and May found Romney and Obama in a dead statistical heat; now, Romney has clearly opened a gap.
Unless Obama changes Floridians' perceptions about his handling of the economy -- or unless he hustles up on that lizard person revelation -- the tea leaves don't read well for his chances in November.