Obama only up 6 in PA Q-poll

A few days ago, the Romney campaign reportedly considered Pennsylvania out of its reach.  According to a new poll from Quinnipiac, they may want to rethink that analysis.  Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney in the heavily Democratic state, but only by six points, and he’s well below the 50% mark needed for incumbents:

With strong support from women and independent voters, President Barack Obama leads Gov. Mitt Romney 46 – 40 among Pennsylvania voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Romney would do a better job on the economy, voters say 49 – 41 percent.

The matchup compares to a 47 – 39 percent Obama lead in a May 3 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. …

“President Barack Obama is holding his ground against Gov. Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania. While almost four-fifths of voters, including 58 percent of Republicans, say the President is a likable person, where the rubber meets the road on the campaign trail – the economy – Romney has the lead,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Pennsylvanians may like the president more than they like Mitt Romney, but the warm and fuzzy feeling gives way to the cold hard truth of a still shaky economy.”

Lest one think that this could be a sampling issue, incumbent Democrat Robert Casey Jr leads his Republican challenger by nearly 20 points in the US Senate race at this time, 51/32.  That’s a difference of 13 points in the gap between the two races.  As the economy becomes more and more of the focus, Obama looks more and more vulnerable.

What’s interesting about this result is its consistency with the entire Q-poll series.  In five polls taken since last December, Obama hasn’t let Romney by more than eight points — which happened in the previous poll, as noted above.  One of the two polls taken in March had the same exact outcome as today’s, while the other showed Obama only three points up on Romney.  While the entire series could be an outlier, this particular result and the relative position of Romney to Obama in this poll is no outlier within the series.

So why hasn’t Team Romney gotten more aggressive about courting Pennsylvanians?  First, it’s early, so they have plenty of time to focus on this state if they see some advantage in doing so.  They may also be looking at the breakout of independents, which Obama seems to win by a larger margin than the overall survey, 43/35.  That’s a curious outcome, and it does call into question the topline results, since Democrats have a double-digit registration edge in the state.  If Romney’s losing indies by eight points, how does he get within six overall?  And with those numbers, how does Obama go from a 48/47 re-elect number, including a 46/47 among independents, to a 46/40 in a head-to-head matchup against Romney?

Team Romney might look at those internals and reasonably conclude that the topline numbers don’t accurately reflect the difficulty in winning Pennsylvania, and they may be right.  If the economy worsens, though, or Obama issues another clueless “private sector is doing fine” statement, things could change in the Keystone State.  If Romney can force Obama to spend a lot of money in Pennsylvania, it might be easier to beat Obama in other key swing states — and if Romney can grab the state away from Obama, the incumbent has almost no realistic path to an Electoral College victory.