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New Pew survey: Among Republicans, Santorum in statistical dead heat with Romney

Chris Moody
The Ticket

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Volunteers supporting Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney vie for attention at the Conservative Political Action Conference …

Rick Santorum's popularity among Republican voters has blown up nationally in recent weeks, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that finds him in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

Santorum leads Romney 30 percent to 28 percent among Republicans and voters that lean Republican, according to the poll conducted Feb. 8-12. The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points, shows that support for Santorum has more than doubled among the group since the poll was last taken in January.

With 10 states set to vote on March 6, after primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28th and caucuses in Washington on March 3, the focus of the race has transitioned from state-by-state contests to a nationwide contest, which makes national polling more relevant than it was earlier.

The greatest thrust of support for Santorum comes from Republicans who associate themselves with the tea party. "Rick Santorum's support among Tea Party Republicans and white evangelicals is surging," the poll's overview concludes, while adding that a majority of Republicans would vote for Romney if he becomes the nominee. Forty-two percent of tea party Republicans said they would support Santorum, while just 23 percent chose Romney. Nearly 70 percent within the sample group—the survey of which has a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points—said they do not consider Romney a "strong conservative."

Last week, Santorum bested Romney in caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, and won a delegate-less primary in Missouri. In the latest contest in Maine on Saturday, Romney led Ron Paul by three percentage points, winning the state with 39 percent of the vote.

Looking ahead to the general election, the Pew poll shows that President Obama continues to poll above all of the GOP nominees in a one-on-one match up. According to the poll, the president leads Romney by eight percentage points and Santorum by ten.

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