Rick Santorum has become a contender:
Riding a wave of momentum from his trio of victories on Tuesday Rick Santorum has opened up a wide lead in PPP’s newest national poll. He’s at 38% to 23% for Mitt Romney, 17% for Newt Gingrich, and 13% for Ron Paul.
Part of the reason for Santorum’s surge is his own high level of popularity. 64% of voters see him favorably to only 22% with a negative one. But the other, and maybe more important, reason is that Republicans are significantly souring on both Romney and Gingrich. Romney’s favorability is barely above water at 44/43, representing a 23 point net decline from our December national poll when he was +24 (55/31). Gingrich has fallen even further. A 44% plurality of GOP voters now hold a negative opinion of him to only 42% with a positive one. That’s a 34 point drop from 2 months ago when he was at +32 (60/28).
Santorum is now completely dominating with several key segments of the electorate, especially the most right leaning parts of the party. With those describing themselves as ‘very conservative,’ he’s now winning a majority of voters at 53% to 20% for Gingrich and 15% for Romney. Santorum gets a majority with Tea Party voters as well at 51% to 24% for Gingrich and 12% for Romney. And with Evangelicals he falls just short of a majority with 45% to 21% for Gingrich and 18% for Romney.
It used to be that Gingrich was leading with all these groups and Romney was staying competitive enough with them to hold the overall lead. No more- a consensus conservative candidate finally seems to be emerging and it’s Santorum.
The best thing Romney might have going for him right now is Gingrich’s continued presence in the race. If Gingrich dropped out 58% of his supporters say they would move to Santorum, while 22% would go to Romney and 17% to Paul. Santorum gets to 50% in the Newt free field to 28% for Romney and 15% for Paul.
HT to Ace of Spades, who discusses the numbers and quotes a new Rasmussen poll about how Romney and Santorum would do against Obama:
President Obama’s lead over Mitt Romney in a potential head-to-head contest has swelled to 10 points, with the president capturing 50% support to Mr. Romney’s 40%. Meanwhile, Rasmussen finds that Mr. Obama leads Mr. Santorum by just four points, 46% to 42%.
Santorum is second in the delegate count: Romney has 123; Santorum has 72; Gingrich has 32; and Paul has 19.
In other election developments, Romney won the Maine caucus, upsetting Ron Paul who was expected to win his first state. Romney took 39%; Paul took 36%; Santorum took 18%; and Gingrich took 6%.
In other good news for Romney, he won the straw poll at CPAC, the big conservative activist convention. He won 38% of the votes; Santorum had 31%; Gingrich had 15%; and Paul had 12%.
It appears that Romney is gradually winning over conservatives but that Santorum has emerged as the main Romney alternative, displacing Newt Gingrich. (He only got 15% at CPAC?) Newt may come back on Super Tuesday since he has lots of fans in the South. But so far he hasn’t done that well despite getting lots of attention.