If the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney and the election was today Barack Obama would probably lose Pennsylvania, fundamentally reshaping the 2012 electoral map.
Obama has dreadful poll numbers in the state, with only 42% of voters approving of him to 53% who disapprove. With white voters he's at only a 36/59 spread, numbers we're more used to seeing in the South than the Northeast. He's also at a much lower than normal 69% approval rating with Democrats while independents split against him 45/53 and only 9% of GOP voters give him good marks.
Obama and Romney are tied at 45% each but if you dig in on the undecided voters only 24% of them approve of Obama's job performance to 70% who disapprove. They may not be completely sold on Romney yet but for the most part if you don't approve of the incumbent President, you're not going to vote for him. If those folks really had to make a decision today it's likely they'd move in Romney's direction and hand him the state.
The Pennsylvania numbers are a clear reminder that Romney is probably the only one of the Republican candidates who can beat Obama at this point though. Obama leads Newt Gingrich by a 49-43 margin. Gingrich may be the top choice of GOP voters right now but he just doesn't have Romney's appeal to independents and Democratic voters. While Romney leads Obama by 2 points with independents, Gingrich trails by 4. And while Romney gets 15% of the Democratic vote against Obama, Gingrich gets only 11%. Obama's prospects for reelection will get a lot brighter if Gingrich's momentum continues.
Gingrich actually only does the 4th best of the Republicans against Obama in Pennsylvania. Second closest is Ron Paul who trails by 4 points at 46-42. Paul does better with independents (a 3 pt lead over Obama) and with Democrats (16% of their vote) than any of the other Republican candidates. His problem, as our primary polling earlier today showed, is that he doesn't have much support in the GOP primary. Third closest against Obama is Rick Santorum, who trails 47-42. If nothing else that's a lot better than Santorum did in his 2006 Senate reelection bid.
Two Republicans manage to do worse than John McCain's 10 point margin of defeat in the state in 2008. Rick Perry, sporting an atrocious 17/66 favorability breakdown, trails Obama 51-38. To put Perry's favorability numbers in perspective, Sarah Palin was at 36/57 the last time we polled her in Pennsylvania. Perry makes her look like Ms. Popularity. Herman Cain's favorability numbers (22/61) aren't as bad as Perry's but he does the worst of the Republicans against Obama, trailing by 18 points at 53-35. We've already seen his bubble bursting some with GOP primary voters, but it's really bursting with the population at large.
Tom Corbett seemed to declare the electoral votes by Congressional District movement dead yesterday, but voters in the state actually support that by a 43-38 margin over the current winner take all system of electoral vote allocation. Republicans (53-24) and independents (45-35) support the change while Democrats (51-33) prefer the present system.
Pennsylvania should be Barack Obama's most worrisome state in 2012- if the Republicans can win there it opens a whole lot of scenarios for getting them to 270 electoral votes that wouldn't exist otherwise.
Full results here