Losing Florida in 2012 would create a major obstacle to Barack Obama’s chances of a second term.  Losing Pennsylvania would be disastrous.  A new survey in the Keystone State shows Obama with an approval rating seriously underwater and in ties with three potential Republican opponents — and the pollster isn’t exactly hostile to Democrats, either:

Pennsylvania’s looking like it could be a very tough state for Barack Obama in 2012. His approval rating there is only 42% with 52% of voters disapproving of him, and he’s within the margin of error in the state against 3 potential Republican opponents, a far cry from his double digit victory there in 2008.

Obama has two major problems in the state: independents and white Democrats. A majority of independents disapprove of him- 54% give him bad marks to 39% who think he’s doing a good job. More concerning is that his approval rating with Democrats is only 68%, well below the 81% we find for him nationally. He’s doing fine with black Democrats- an 86% approval rating- but with white Democrats he’s at only a 64/27 spread.

Those numbers suggest that a lot of the voters who fueled Hillary Clinton’s primary victory in the state and then sucked it up and voted for Obama in the general election the last time around haven’t been real thrilled with what they’ve seen from him so far and could split their tickets next year- if the Republicans put up someone who’s seen as a reasonable alternative.

This comes from Public Policy Polling, a firm whose results tend to lean towards the Left.  In this case, they may have overpolled Democrats slightly with a +13, but it’s not by much if at all, so the sample seems pretty reliable — except in one sense.  According to one demo question asked, the sample split between Obama and John McCain 48/44, with 7% saying they voted for someone else or can’t remember who they picked in 2008.  Obama actually won Pennsylvania by 11 points, 55/44.

It looks as though the people who voted McCain have no problem admitting to it, but at least some Pennsylvanians who cast a vote for the winner have so much buyer’s remorse that it’s causing amnesia.

That’s reflected in the head-to-head matchups as well.  Obama only solidly beats Sarah Palin in the poll, 50/39, in which Palin at least beats the sample spread between Democrats and Republicans, and Newt Gingrich, 47/39.   Obama barely edges Mike Huckabee 45/44, and he narrowly loses to Mitt Romney 43/42, both obviously within the MOE.  But Obama also falls within the MOE against Rick Santorum 45/43, who lost his last statewide election in Pennsylvania and who hasn’t been seen as a top-tier contender in this cycle thus far.

Obama can afford to lose Florida and still find his way back to the Oval Office.  There is no good path to the White House for a Democrat that loses Pennsylvania — which would indicate danger in more-Republican states like Ohio, Indiana, and even Michigan, all of which Obama won in 2008.