Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have spent the campaign arguing that they are the candidate most able to beat President Barack Obama in a general election; but in the crucial swing state of Ohio, the Republican polling best against the president is Rick Santorum.

According to a poll released on Wednesday by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat-affiliated organization, Obama’s numbers have improved in the state: He breaks even on approval and disapproval, with 48 percent in each category; and he bests all of his possible Republican opponents in a head to head match up. But Santorum does the best — getting 42 percent to Obama’s 48 percent. Romney loses 49 to 42, Paul 48 to 38, and Gingrich gets flattened 51 percent to 39 percent.

Santorum is also the least unpopular of the Republican candidates, all of whom are upside down in their favorability ratings. 35 percent of Ohio voters say they hold a favorable opinion of Santorum, and 48 percent say they hold an unfavorable opinion, making him only 13 points underwater. Romney, by contrast, is underwater by 28 points; Paul by 30 points; and Gingrich by 34 points. Only Santorum earns an unfavorable rating from less than a majority of the electorate.

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