Romney described them as "victims" who would vote for Obama and want handouts. He later said the remarks were "off the cuff" and "not elegantly stated."
The incident came a week after Romney took a hit in a national poll for the way he criticized Obama's handling of Middle East violence on Sept. 11.
But Florida voters seemed to take it all in stride.
"We had this swirl of coverage over the last couple of weeks, and it doesn't seem to have made a real impact with average voters," Coker said. "The talking class and the analysts and the inside-the-Beltway-bubble people all think this stuff is big and important. I guess the voters don't think it's all that much important."
Here's what they care about: the economy.
And on that point, they're evenly split.
Asked who's more trustworthy on the economy, they tied. Romney has made the economic tough times under the president central to his campaign.
"That probably is the one result in here that's a bit worrisome if I were the Romney camp," Coker said. "Romney's got to build a margin on that economy question."
About 45 percent of likely voters believe the economy in Florida is stable, while 32 percent say it's improving. A fifth says it's worsening.
More than two-thirds say Obama bears at least some blame for the shape of the economy; 31 percent say he's not.
On the president's overall job performance, voters are almost equally divided. A majority thinks the country's on the wrong track.
Democrats and independents are more likely than not to believe the economy is improving. Only Republicans are more likely to believe it's getting worse.
Women are far more likely than men to believe the economy is getting better and are more likely than men to support Obama. Men are more likely to believe the economy is worsening and back Romney in bigger numbers than they back Obama.
Obama's biggest strength: African-Americans, who back him with more than 90 percent of the vote, and young voters (ages 18-34), who support the president by double digits.
Among young voters, Obama's support has improved somewhat more than Romney's since July. The president's campaign has barnstormed colleges and talked up the need for making college more affordable, while noting Romney might cut federal support.
Seniors, however, seem to favor Romney more than Obama, and seniors are more likely to vote than younger people.
Non-Hispanic white voters also back Romney by a 15-point margin, the poll suggests. That's significant in a state where they account for two-thirds of the registered voters and tend to cast ballots in disproportionately higher numbers than, say, Hispanic voters, who comprise 14 percent of the active voter rolls.
Obama leads Romney among Hispanic voters by 9 points. But, because of the relatively small sample size of Hispanic voters -- two-thirds of whom were polled in Spanish -- the lead could fluctuate. Other polls show Obama with about a 20-point edge among Hispanic voters.
Still, many pollsters -- including Democrats -- say that's not enough to make up for Obama's poor showing with non-Hispanic whites.
Obama's lead among Hispanic voters is smaller in Florida than in other Hispanic-heavy battleground states because of the presence of Cuban-Americans. They tend to vote Republican and account for about 70 percent of the registered Republicans in Miami-Dade, the state's largest county.
Cuban-Americans comprise about a third of the registered Hispanic voters, but they often vote in disproportionately higher numbers. Puerto Rican voters are more Democratic and are more clustered in Central Florida. There, the Obama campaign is reminding voters in a Spanish-language ad that Romney opposed the nomination of the first Puerto Rican to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.
Some Puerto Rican voters, like Javier Carmona, 31, of Oviedo, are Republican. But he said he's voting against Romney.
"Romney doesn't have a brain," Carmona said. "I was in the U.S. Army, and I believe in helping people out and serving my country. Romney doesn't. He thinks 47 percent of us don't count."
On the other end of the Republican spectrum is this from Roberto Perdz, 73, a Miami Cuban-American: "Obama failed. He had four years, and it didn't do anything positive. Mitt Romney will bring change. He has a plan. Obama doesn't."
To gin up the Cuban vote, Romney has released a new Spanish-language ad featuring Florida Sen. Marco Rubio giving a testimonial about his Medicare bonafides. On Saturday, Romney also dispatched his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, to The Versailles restaurant, a focal point of the Cuban exile community. Ryan once favored lifting the Cuban embargo but has now pledged to be tough on the Castro dictatorship.
The selection of Ryan, who had proposed plans that cut back on future Medicare expenditures, also carried risks in senior-heavy Florida.
However, Republicans counteracted criticism of Ryan's Medicare record by holding up the president's Affordable Health Care Act. It remains deeply unpopular in Florida because it trimmed future Medicare expenses. Ryan, though, had twice voted to keep intact the very Medicare cuts he now bashes.
About 49 percent trust Obama to keep Medicare financially stable, compared to 47 percent for Romney -- a virtual tie.
"It's the Obamacare factor," Coker said. "It's almost the neutralizer with the traditional attack that the Democrats make on Medicare. The Republicans actually have a grenade to throw back at them, whereas in the past they haven't."
Because of the vagaries of the Electoral College system, Romney needs to win Florida. If he doesn't, he'll lose his bid to unseat Obama, who's running stronger in swing states like Ohio and Virginia, where other surveys indicate that voters are more sanguine about the economy.
"We're a toss-up state," Coker said. "We were a toss-up state last time. We were a toss-up state eight years ago. We were a toss-up state 12 years ago. There's absolutely no reason we shouldn't be a toss-up state now."
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