While the general election is just beginning, a new poll shows a very close contest shaping up in two critical states.
President Obama and his presumed Republican challenger Mitt Romney are essentially tied in Florida and Ohio, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. In Florida, Romney takes 44 percent to Obama's 43 percent, while in Ohio, Obama wins 44 percent and Romney wins 42 percent.
In Pennsylvania, meanwhile -- another swing state -- Obama has a distinct lead with 47 percent support to Romney's 39 percent.
No presidential candidate since 1960 has won the White House without carrying two of these three states, polled by Quinnipiac from April 25 - May 1.
While Obama is doing slightly better overall in those three states, Romney appears to have gained some ground -- a month ago, the president had bigger leads in Florida and Ohio. And on the critical issue of the economy, Romney may have an edge.
Voters in Florida say Romney would do a better job fixing the economy, 49 percent to 40 percent. Similarly, 47 percent of Ohio voters say Romney would do a better job, compared to 43 percent who say Obama would. In Pennsylvania, voters are split: 44 percent say Obama would do a better job handling the economy while 43 percent pick Romney.
While at least two thirds of voters in all three states say the economy is still in a recession, at least 51 percent in each state say the recovery has begun. In some good news for the president, a new Associated Press survey of 32 leading economists suggests the unemployment rate could fall below 8 percent by Election Day.
In Ohio and Pennsylvania, Romney could gain more ground if he widened his appeal among women. In Ohio, 50 percent of women back the president while 37 percent support Romney. Among men in that state, Romney has a 10-point advantage. Similarly in Pennsylvania, women choose Mr. Obama over Romney, 52 percent to 35 percent while men prefer Romney by three points.