Guy Benson

This polling thunder bolt struck just a few hours before last night's Vice Presidential debate.  Whoa:


Barack Obama's lackluster debate performance last week has dramatically altered the presidential race in Florida, with Mitt Romney opening up a decisive 7 percentage point lead, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll. The survey conducted this week found 51 percent of likely Florida voters supporting Romney, 44 percent backing Obama and 4 percent undecided. That's a major shift from a month ago when the same poll showed Obama leading 48 percent to 47 percent — and a direct result of what Obama himself called a "bad night" at the first debate. The debate prompted 5 percent of previously undecided voters and 2 percent of Obama backers to move to Romney. Another 2 percent of Obama supporters said they are now undecided because of the debate. "There's no question in my mind that debate made people stand up and pay attention, and it really wiped away any questions people had about Romney, whether they were undecided or soft for Obama," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research


These numbers include a 24-point swing for Romney among independents, and a 13-point boost with women.  Most telling, Romney now has a narrow lead with Hispanic voters, 46-44.  I say again, whoa.  Five more bullets from the internals:
 

Who do you trust more to improve the economy? Romney 50 percent, Obama 44 percent.

Who do you trust more on foreign policy? Romney 49 percent, Obama 46 percent.

Who do you trust more to look out for the middle class? Romney 50 percent, Obama 47 percent.

Who do you consider more trustworthy to lead the nation? Romney 51 percent, Obama 46 percent.

Whose plans are more likely to do more long-term harm to Medicare? Obama 54 percent, Romney 40 percent.


I did a double-take on that last data point, and you should too.  It asks whose plans will do more harm to Medicare.  Remember when Democrats predicted that the Ryan pick would be all she wrote for Romney in Florida?  Not so much.  Earlier in the week I raised major questions about the Suffolk polling firm's decision to pull out of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia because they were already"painting [those states] red."  It seemed -- and seems -- like a premature decision.  Then again, based on the latest independent polls in the former two states, maybe they're starting to see overwhelming movement away from Obama.  We haven't quite seen that daylight in Virginia, even though a few recent polls have pushed Romney out to a slight lead.  If this lead is confirmed and holds up, Romney can start to pour even more resources into Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin -- and hell, maybe even Pennsylvania.


UPDATE - Hello, Virginia.  51-44 Romney, with independents breaking heavily for the Republican.


UPDATE II - Ahead by three in New Hampshire?


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography