A poll released Wednesday showed President Barack Obama and his GOP rival Mitt Romney neck and neck in Florida, a battleground state Obama narrowly won in 2008.
When two of the state's most popular Republican politicians are added to the ticket - Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush - Romney sees a slight bump, but the results remain within the poll's sampling error.
The Suffolk University survey showed 46% of likely Florida voters backing Obama, and 45% backing Romney; 7% of respondents said they hadn't yet decided who to back in the general election.
With Rubio on the GOP ticket, Romney edged Obama 47%-44%. A Romney-Bush ticket showed a similar bump, besting Obama-Biden by 2 percentage points. Both results were within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Both Rubio and Bush have downplayed any talk of appearing on the 2012 GOP ticket, though each has mentioned the other's name as a strong choice for Romney.
The poll's results reflect a jump for Obama, who stood at 42% in a Suffolk Florida poll taken in January. Back then Romney had the support of 47% of Florida voters. "Despite locking up the Republican nomination and a strong showing in the Florida Republican primary in January, Romney still has a lot of work to do to win over Florida voters," David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in a statement. "He would need to repair the fallout of negativity from the Republican primaries by being more likable and offering general-election voters a positive alternative to President Obama."
That negativity was reflected in Wednesday's poll: Romney's unfavorability rating has jumped 8 points since January. Before Florida's January 31 primary, 37% of voters viewed the candidate unfavorably, compared with 45% who view him that way now.
Florida's primary was particularly scathing -- 92% of political ads running the week ahead of the contest were negative. Romney's main rival at that point was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who waged a particularly ruthless battle against Romney. Of the 1,012 spots Newt Gingrich's campaign ran, 95% were negative. Mitt Romney's campaign ran 3,276 ads and 99% were negative.
A majority of the likely voters surveyed in Wednesday's poll - 60% -- said they felt the country was on the wrong track.
The Suffolk University poll was taken by telephone from May 6-8, and surveyed 600 registered voters in Florida. The sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.