Lucky for Barack Obama that the election is 13 months away, because a new Florida poll shows him trailing Mitt Romney and neck and neck with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
The Aug. 18-22 Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll underscores the work Obama has to do if he hopes to win Florida again: Only 41 percent of likely voters surveyed approve of the job he's doing, while 56 percent disapprove, including 55 percent of independents.
"Unlike 2008, if the election were held today, President Obama would face a stiffer headwind to hold onto Florida and its 29 electoral votes against a top-tier Republican challenger — and that could cost him re-election," said Ron Sachs, president of Ron Sachs Communications. "Judging by the poll, President Obama's success in 2008 will be more difficult to duplicate in 2012. The presidency will go to the candidate with the message that resonates with Florida's unique and diverse population and the resources to ensure that message is received by voters across the state."
In one-on-one match-ups, Obama trails Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, 51 percent to 43 percent and Perry 46 percent to 45 percent. Obama narrowly edges Bachmann 46 percent to 44 percent, the poll found.
Among likely Republican primary voters in Florida, Romney leads with 28 percent, followed by Perry with 21 percent, Bachmann with 13 percent, businessman Herman Cain with 7 percent, former Rep. Newt Gingrich with 5 percent, Rep. Ron Paul with 4 percent, former Sen. Rick Santorum with 2 percent. Seventeen percent of respondents were undecided. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose campaign is based in Orlando, didn't even register in the poll.
The telephone survey of 625 likely voters was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. For questions only relating to the Republican primary, Mason-Dixon surveyed 300 Republicans and the margin of error is plus or minus 5.8 percent.
Independent voters typically decide statewide elections in Florida, and at this early stage Romney is the strongest among that group. He leads Obama by 2 percentage points among independents, while Perry and Bachmann both trail by 7.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.