Mitt Romney has crept to a 6-percentage point lead over President Barack Obama in Florida, where a new poll shows a majority of registered voters don't think the incumbent deserves a second term.
Romney's 47 percent to 41 percent lead over Obama would grow even bigger — to an 8 percentage-point advantage — if the challenger chose Sen. Marco Rubio a running mate, according to Quinnipiac University's new survey.
The poll also indicates that Romney has closed the so-called "gender gap" among women voters with Obama, who barely leads among Hispanics. And Obama is enjoying almost no advantage for his widely publicized decision to publicly favor same-sex unions, which a majority of Floridians now favor.
But regardless of Rubio or the gay-marriage issue, more voters simply view Romney more favorably than they view Obama, the poll shows.
"Gov. Mitt Romney has slipped into the lead in Florida and that standing is confirmed by his much better numbers than the president when voters are asked whether they view the candidates favorably or unfavorably," Peter A. Brown, assistant vice president of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"They view Romney favorably 44 – 35 percent, while Obama gets a negative 45 – 50 percent favorability," he said.
Romney's standing has steadily increased since the bruising Republican primaries essentially came to an end. In March, Obama led Romney 49-42. Now, the president is losing in a 13 percentage-point swing in Romney's favor. During that time, third-party political groups called Super PACs have begun to steadily pound Obama in TV ads.
Romney's biggest advantage: the economy. Exactly half of voters say Romney can handle it best, while 40 percent say the same about Obama. And Romney leads among a crucial segment of the electorate: independent voters, who back him over Obama by 12 percentage points.
Also, 52 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's job performance and say he doesn't deserve a second term; 44 percent approve and want to see him re-elected
Though Romney might not need Rubio right now on the ticket, Rubio doesn't hurt him, either. With Rubio, Romney's lead grows to a 49-41 advantage over Obama – a lead well outside the 1,722-person poll's 2.4 percentage-point error margin.
Florida voters appear to like Rubio more than Vice President Joe Biden. About 44 percent have a favorable opinion of Rubio, compared to 36 percent who have a favorable view of Biden. About a quarter of voters have an unfavorable view of Rubio, while 42 percent have an unfavorable view of Biden, the poll shows.
Outside of Florida, Rubio's help to the Romney ticket might not matter much. Other polls indicate the freshmen Republican senator isn't well known nationally. But it might not matter. Romney needs to win Florida, and the poll suggests Rubio would marginally help him do that.
Considering the volatile political atmosphere, it's a good bet that the lead could change again in the race. The poll indicates Florida voters can be fickle.
In 2008, when they chose Obama, more than 60 percent of Florida voters backed a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. Now, the poll says, 50 percent support gay marriage and 40 percent oppose it.
Still, that doesn't translate into votes for Obama.
But nearly half of voters say gay marriage is not important at all, while only 22 percent say it's very or extremely important. And about 60 percent of voters say same-sex marriage makes no difference in how they'd vote.