President Obama's top re-election campaign strategists say winning Florida in November would be the "easiest way" to the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch a second term.
But winning Florida itself is shaping up to be anything but easy, as a new Quinnipiac University poll shows.
Fifty-four percent of registered Florida voters disapprove of Obama, well above the national average, while 52 percent say he does not deserve a second term.
In a hypothetical matchup with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, Obama is locked in a statistical dead heat, trailing the former Massachusetts governor 43 to 46 percent. (The poll has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.)
Obama's troubles are particularly evident among one of his key constituencies - Hispanic voters - who divide almost evenly on whether to pick Romney, 46 to 45 percent. Obama won Florida's Hispanics in 2008 with 57 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll.
"The election isn't for 10 more months so he has plenty of time to turn things around," Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown said. "Nevertheless, President Obama needs to mend fences in the Sunshine State, especially among men, whites and those voters without college degrees. The difference among voters by age is especially striking."
Obama loses to Romney among whites without a college degree by a 25-point margin, 31 to 56 percent. He also trails the Republican by 9 points among voters ages 50 to 64, and 14 points among those 65 and older.
During a September visit to Florida, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the uphill battle he and Obama face in the state, telling WLRN voters are "understandably" looking at the race as a referendum on the economy.
"There's a lot of people in Florida that have good reason to be upset because they've lost jobs. Even though 50 some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that's not relevant," Biden told WLRN's Phil Latzman.
"What's relevant is, we're in charge. And right now, we are the ones in charge, and it's gotten better but it hasn't gotten good enough. And in states like Florida, it's even been more stagnant because of the real estate market," he said. "I don't blame them for being mad. We're in charge, and they're angry."