U.S. President Barack Obama has expanded his lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the southern state of Florida and the midwestern state of Ohio -- two of the most important battleground states in this year's presidential race.
A public opinion poll released Wednesday shows President Obama with more than 50 percent support in both states, part of the group of so-called swing states expected to decide the November 6 election.
The president leads Romney 53 to 44 percent in Florida and 53 to 43 percent in Ohio.
The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll also found Obama maintaining his double-digit lead in a third swing state, Pennsylvania, with 54 percent support compared to Romney's 42 percent.
The assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Peter Brown, says the figures reflect what he described as Romney's "bad week in the media." He said the "furor over Romney's 47 percent remark" is almost certainly a "major factor" in President Obama's significant leads in the three states.
Romney faced widespread criticism after a secretly-taped video surfaced last week showing him telling donors that 47 percent of Americans, who he said will vote for Obama "no matter what," believe they are "victims" entitled to government support.
The Quinnipiac poll also found that voters in all three states see President Obama as better than Romney to handle a number of key issues, including the economy, health care, national security, an international crisis and immigration. Romney ties or emerges slightly ahead of the president on handling the budget deficit.
Both Obama and Romney are holding campaign rallies in Ohio Wednesday. At a campaign appearance Wednesday morning featuring Ohio native and golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, Romney told supporters that he knows what it takes to restore the greatness of America.
The former Massachusetts governor began a two-day bus tour of the industrial state Tuesday, joining U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, his vice-presidential running mate, at a rally near the city of Dayton. In their first joint campaign appearance in several days, the two Republicans said they could revise the struggling U.S. economy, something they said Obama has failed to do.
"This president cannot run on his record," they said. "This president is going to say anything and everything to try and blame, to try and duck, to try and distort, to try and divide, to try and distract. You know what, Ohio? We're not going to let him.''
"I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to restore that principle of free enterprise, that principle of people pursuing their dreams as they wish. We're a nation of dreamers. We want our kids to get an education that would give them the skills so that they can dream and build their future. That's the nature of how America works."
Romney also accused the president of failing to take on China's trade practices, including stealing U.S. intellectual property, which he says has cost jobs in the United States.
No Republican presidential candidate has won the White House without winning Ohio, one of a handful of states with a large number of electoral votes.
The president, meanwhile, will reach out to a key group of supporters -- young adult voters -- during campaign rallies at two Ohio colleges Wednesday.