Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs to ramp up efforts to reassure voters he's the best candidate to handle the still-sputtering economy and build his appeal with women voters in order to succeed, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
Romney trails President Barack Obama in three key states by the widest margins yet in the CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac series. In Florida, voters support Obama 53 percent to Romney's 44 percent; in Ohio, Obama leads Romney 53 percent to 43 percent; and in Pennsylvania, it's Obama's 54 percent versus Romney's 42 percent. The surveys were of likely voters and have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
The polling shows Obama with a 20 to 25 percentage point lead over Romney among women voters in the three states, a massive gender gap, as the president trails Romney among men by less than 10 points.
And in a finding that should be most troubling to the Romney campaign because it cuts at the core of their campaign message, voters are increasingly saying they trust Obama over the Massachusetts businessman to handle the economy. The president also continues to be seen as more empathetic to voters as well.
Romney has currently embarked on a bus tour of Ohio to shore up support in the Midwestern state that is crucial to his White House bid; no Republican has been elected president without winning the Buckeye State. But with Election Day six weeks away, time is slipping away for Romney to change the dynamic of the race, which has been trending toward Obama.
The first presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 3, will provide Romney another chance to present his economic bona fides and convince voters to support him.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.