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Poll: Santorum in Dead Heat With Romney; Gingrich Falls Back Poll: Santorum in Dead Heat With Romney; Gingrich Falls Back

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campaign 2012

Poll: Santorum in Dead Heat With Romney; Gingrich Falls Back

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Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, at the Lone Tree Golf Club in Lone Tree, Colo. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

A new national poll shows Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum in a dead heat with rival Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, which comes on top of other national surveys that produced similar findings this week.

Thirty-four percent of respondents favored Santorum for the nomination, giving him a slight edge over Romney, who was the top choice of 32 percent, in the poll published on Tuesday by CNN/ORC. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who until recently was Romney’s biggest obstacle, was way behind and in a virtual tie with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Gingrich was favored by 15 percent of respondents, while Paul was favored by 16 percent.

 

Romney's overall favorable ratings also dropped, while Santorum's standing jumped among Republicans, according to the survey. Among Republicans, Romney's popularity took a 13-point tumble.

The nationwide poll of 1,026 adults, including 937 registered voters, was conducted Feb. 10 to 13 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

It mirrored other surveys published this week that identified a surge for Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. Santorum edged the former Massachusetts governor among Republican primary voters in a nationwide poll by CBS News/New York Times released earlier on Tuesday. 

 

Thirty percent said they supported Santorum, while 27 percent preferred Mitt Romney. Paul was third with 12 percent, and Gingrich fourth at 10 percent. That poll showed a shift in support from Gingrich to Santorum from a month earlier, when Romney led the field with 28 percent and Gingrich was his nearest competition with 21 percent.

The CNN/ORC poll found a similar trend: Santorum's support increasing at Gingrich's expense, while Romney holds steady. In early January, 34 percent of respondents favored Romney in the CNN/ORC national poll, while Gingrich was second with 18 percent and Santorum and Paul were tied in third place at 15 percent.

All of the polls published this week and showing Santorum surging were conducted after Santorum's victories over Romney, Gingrich, and Paul in last Tuesday's caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and in a nonbinding primary in Missouri. The results confirm that the race remains volatile as long as Romney is unable to nail down support from the conservative base.

The surveys reveal that social conservatives and tea party voters are the most likely to prefer another candidate over Romney, and it also bears out their oft-stated desire to find an alternative to Romney who also has the chops to take on President Obama in the fall.

 

The CNN/ORC poll offers some clues that the volatility may be temporary. Even though Romney only ties Santorum for first place, he is considered by 68 percent of respondents as the "most likely to win the nomination" regardless of candidate preference. And 55 percent say that he has the best chance of beating Obama, compared with 18 percent who feel that way about Santorum.

But that doesn't mean they have to like him. Just 54 percent of Republicans said they hold a favorable view of Romney, down from 67% who felt that way a month earlier. Meanwhile, Santorum's standing rose among Republicans, with 56% reporting they have a good opinion of him, up from 49% in January.

Paul and Gingrich received positive reviews from roughly half of all Republicans.

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On major issues, Republicans said Romney was better able to deal with the economy, taxes, health care and the deficit. Gingrich had a major advantage on foreign policy and illegal immigration, and Santorum was viewed similarly on abortion issues.

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