(CNN) - Newt Gingrich's lead in three key battleground states has expanded into the double digits, according to a poll released Thursday, but Mitt Romney is still slightly more competitive in potential match-ups with President Barack Obama.
The survey - from Quinnipiac University - shows Gingrich, the former House speaker, pulling away with a clear advantage in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.
Florida, which will hold its closely watched primary on January 31, has seen heavy campaign traffic from the GOP candidates, including Gingrich, who campaigned there in late November.
When presented with the Republican candidates vying for the 2012 nomination, 35% of registered Florida Republicans said they'd back Gingrich, while 22% named Romney. The other candidates all fared in the single digits.
In a potential race against the incumbent president, however, Romney held a more competitive position than Gingrich. Romney slipped past Obama in a general election match-up 45%-42%. When Obama faced Gingrich, the former House speaker garnered 44% and Obama nabbed 46%.
Gingrich's rise among his Republican rivals is a steep increase from the last Quinnipiac poll in Florida. That survey, taken in early November, put former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 21% in Florida, and Gingrich at 17%.
The frontrunner back then was Herman Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza executive who suspended his presidential campaign last week. Twenty-seven percent of Florida Republicans backed Cain in the earlier poll.
Gingrich saw a similar spike in Ohio, where 36% of registered Republicans said they'd vote for the former speaker. Romney followed nearly 20 points behind at 18%. Again, the other candidates in the race all polled in the single digits.
Romney and Gingrich fared identically against Obama in a hypothetical Ohio general election, each picking up 43% of respondents compared to Obama's 42%.
Like Florida, Ohio's numbers for Gingrich are sharply different from a month ago, when 11% of Republicans said they'd back him, compared to 20% who supported Romney and 25% who picked Cain.
Ohio votes relatively late on the primary and caucus calendar, but if no clear frontrunner emerges by the time Ohioans go to the polls, the state's large number of delegates will be coveted by candidates hoping to secure the nomination.
Pennsylvania, which is considered a must-win for Obama in the 2012 general election, shows narrow margins between the president and the two frontrunning Republican rivals.
In a match-up with Romney, Obama sneaks by 46% to 43%. Gingrich fares worse, getting 40% of the vote to Obama's 48%.
Like Ohio, Pennsylvania holds a late presidential primary. Gingrich is running well ahead of his Republican rivals, with the backing of 31% of registered Republicans. Romney, in second, was at 17%.
In all three states, Obama's approval rating stood well below 50%. In Florida and Ohio, 41% of voters approved Obama's job performance, while in Pennsylvania 43% approved. Obama won all three states in the 2008 election.
The Quinnipiac poll was taken by telephone from November 28-December 5. In Florida, 1,226 voters were polled and the sampling error was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. 1,437 voters in Ohio were surveyed, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. In Pennsylvania, the poll reached 1,453 voters and had a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.