Polls: Obama widening lead in key states Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania

A new poll shows President Obama widening his lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney in the key battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

The new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll shows Obama leading Romney by 53-43 percent among likely voters in Ohio and with a 53-44 edge in Florida. 

Those two states, along with Virginia, are seen as the biggest prizes on Election Day, and it is generally thought that Romney would have to win two of the three to take the White House. The Republican nominee is also behind in Virginia, according to several polls. 

In Pennsylvania, Obama holds a 12-point advantage over Romney, 54 percent to 42. 

Ohio's importance will be highlighted Wednesday when both candidates make trips to the swing state. 

Obama will deliver remarks at separate events in Bowling Green and Kent, Ohio, while Romney will continue a bus tour through the state with his running mate, Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDischarge petition efforts intensify as leadership seeks unity Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on MORE (Wis.).  

Romney started his day at a rally with golfer Jack Nicklaus in Westerville, Ohio. Romney later on Wednesday will hold a manufacturing roundtable in Bedford Heights and then attend another rally in Toledo. 

Romney in recent weeks has emphasized that he will get tough with China on its trade and economic policies in an effort to appeal to Ohio voters. Obama's advantage in the Buckeye State has been built in part on his efforts to help the auto industry, which the president's team argues has helped Ohio workers. 

The Quinnipiac numbers show Obama widening his lead since August, when he held a 3-point edge in Florida and a 6-point advantage in Ohio. 

A Washington Post poll released late Monday also showed Obama with an edge in Ohio and Florida. Obama led Romney by 8 points in Ohio, 52-44 percent, and by 51-47 percent in Florida. 

The Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll finds Obama favored over Romney on the economy and national security in all three states.

In Ohio, 51 percent surveyed say Obama would do a better job on the economy to 45 percent for Romney. Obama holds a 5-point edge on that issue in Florida, leading the GOP nominee 51-46, and tops Romney on the economy 51-45 in Pennsylvania.

On national security, 51 percent of voters in each state back the president, with 45 percent of Ohio and Pennsylvania voters and 46 percent in Florida preferring Romney.

The Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll’s findings come after unrest in the Middle East and the death of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

Romney has used the turmoil to paint the president’s foreign policy as weak, but voters still express confidence in Obama’s ability to handle U.S. interests in the region. A majority in each state said they were “very” or “somewhat” confident in Obama’s “ability to make the right decisions about events in the Middle East.”

Romney was under water in each state, with 51 percent of voters in Florida saying they were not confident of his ability to handle events in the Middle East and 52 percent in Ohio and 54 percent in Pennsylvania expressing similar doubts. 

The polls also suggest many voters think Obama's policies would be better for the middle class than Romney's. 

In Ohio, 28 percent of voters said Obama’s second-term policies would favor the middle class, with 8 percent saying they would favor the rich and 25 percent the poor. 

Fifty-eight percent in the Buckeye State, though, said Romney’s policies would favor the rich, with 56 percent of Florida voters and 59 percent in Pennsylvania saying the same. Eight percent in Florida and 9 percent each in Ohio and Pennsylvania said Romney’s policies would favor the middle class.

The poll comes after a secretly filmed video showed Romney claiming that “47 percent” of voters were dependent on government and would back Obama. The Obama campaign quickly jumped on those remarks with a series of swing-state ads accusing Romney of attacking middle-class workers.

Overall, the Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll finds Obama maintaining his edge in favorability over Romney. Fifty-four percent in each state viewed the president favorably, with 42 percent in Florida and 43 percent in Ohio and Pennsylvania holding unfavorable views of the president. 

Romney is under water in each state, with a 48-41 unfavorable rating in Florida and 49-41 and 50-41 unfavorable scores in Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively.

But the poll shows voters still divided on Obama’s job performance. In Florida and Ohio, 50 percent approve of the president while 47 percent disapprove of his performance. 

The Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll was conducted from Sept. 18 to 25 and has a 3-point margin of error.

The Washington Post survey was conducted from Sept. 19 to 23 and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.