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Speakers at the Leadership Conference Credit: Muyi Li

Pennsylvanians have mixed feelings about President Barack Obama’s job performance, according to numbers from the polling firm Public Policy Polling released earlier this month.

Although his numbers have improved since PPP surveyed the state three months ago, his statewide approval rating stands at 46 percent and his disapproval rating at 48 percent — seemingly a far cry from 2008, when Obama bested Sen. John McCain by 10 points to win Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.

The report comes as Washington is embroiled in debt-ceiling negotiations and unemployment nation-wide has remained, for the most part, above 9 percent since May 2009. The statewide numbers on the president appear to reflect this national sentiment despite the fact that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has steadily declined since January 2010. As of May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put it at 7.4 percent.

Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus said in a conference call last week that he guaranteed Obama would not win Pennsylvania again in 2012.

The PPP poll, however, found that Obama has a sizable lead against most of his Republican contenders for the presidency — with the exception of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with whom he was tied at 44 percent of the vote. Jon Huntsman Jr., a 1987 College graduate and recent entrant to the race, was not included in the poll.

“Right now, it looks like the only candidate who’ll give Obama trouble winning Pennsylvania again is Romney,” PPP President Dean Debnam said in a statement.

Late last month, Romney visited a closed Allentown steel plant, one that Obama had touted as an example of the success of his stimulus legislation, and called it a symbol of the failure of the president’s economic policies.

“President Obama’s anti-growth strategies have not worked,” College Republicans President Charles Gray, a rising Wharton and College senior, wrote in an email. “If Obama were to lose Pennsylvania, it would be virtually impossible for him to win reelection.”

In 2008, Penn’s campus went overwhelmingly for Obama — 3,731 votes cast on Penn’s campus were for Obama, while 752 went to McCain.

Earlier this year, a poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that 55 percent of these voters, aged 18 to 29, still approve of of Obama’s job performance. They gave him a lead of 12 percentage points over a Republican opponent.

But because the GOP race has barely begun, these early match-ups and poll numbers may be somewhat uninformed.

“The real scrutiny of GOP candidates won’t come until the fall,” said Penn Political Science professor Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, who studies election politics and the presidency. “Until then, it remains on Obama.”

Tenpas said she is skeptical of the numbers because the GOP field is far from solidified. At that point, she explained, Republicans vying for the nomination will begin more negative campaigning and attempt to take each other down.

“What matters now,” Tenpas said, “is the money race.”

Obama’s campaign raised $46.3 million in the second fundraising quarter of 2011, breaking records and more than doubling the amount raised by his closest opponent, Romney, who pulled in $18.4 million. Huntsman, who is not required to file his fundraising figures until the third quarter, announced that he has raised $4.1 million.

Obama visited Philadelphia at the end of last month to hold two Democratic National Committee fundraising events, one at the Hyatt Hotel at the Bellevue and the other at the home of 1981 Penn Law graduate and Comcast Corporation Executive Vice President David Cohen. He raised more than $1.2 million at these two fundraisers.

The PPP poll surveyed 545 Pennsylvania voters from June 30 to July 5. The results have a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

Editor's Note: The summary and subhead of this story were updated from their original versions to reflect that it is Obama's approval rating, not his disapproval rating, that is at 46 percent.

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