Bloomberg News

Santorum Draws Even With Romney in Poll Showing They Trail Obama

February 16, 2012

(For more campaign news, ELECT)

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum has overtaken Mitt Romney in the battle for the party’s nomination, according to a Pew Research Center poll that also shows both losing to President Barack Obama in hypothetical matchups.

Santorum drew the backing of 30 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters in the Feb. 8-12 poll, while Romney got 28 percent, Pew said on its website. Obama held a 10 percentage point lead over Santorum and 8 points over Romney among a survey of all registered voters, Washington-based Pew said.

Romney’s status in the race was shaken when Santorum won all three contests on Feb. 7 -- in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

Last night, Romney told a rally of more than 2,400 in an outdoor amphitheater in Mesa, Arizona, that his experience as a businessman, governor of Massachusetts and running the 2002 Winter Olympics makes him best qualified to be president. “Let’s not nominate someone who hasn’t run anything and hasn’t been a leader,” he said.

Santorum said over the weekend that Romney has become “desperate” in trying to attack Santorum’s conservative credentials. “You reach a point where desperate people do desperate things,” he said. “He’s having trouble finding out how to go after someone who is a solid conservative, who’s got a great track record of attracting independents and Democrats and winning states as a conservative,” Santorum said in an interview on ABC Television’s “This Week.”

Washington State

Yesterday, the Romney campaign organized supporters in Washington state to tout their candidate and his Feb. 11 win in Maine’s caucuses, while Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, campaigned in the state in the far Northwest.

“There’s a lot of campaign momentum,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a U.S. representative who is Romney’s campaign chairwoman in Washington state, during a conference call for reporters. “There’s no question in my mind that he’s the most electable of the Republican candidates.”

The next primaries, on Feb. 28, are in Arizona and Michigan.

Santorum and onetime U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich have been vying for weeks to become the chief alternative to Romney and unite the conservative Republican activists who haven’t warmed to Romney’s candidacy. Yesterday, National Review Online suggested Gingrich should step aside.

‘Proper Course’

“When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race,” the publication said in an editorial on its website. “On his own arguments, the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit.”

The National Review in December warned Republicans against nominating Gingrich, saying he might ruin the opportunity to win the White House. Yesterday, the publication said, “It would be a grave mistake for the party to make someone with such poor judgment and persistent unpopularity its presidential nominee.”

In the Pew Poll, Gingrich drew the support of 17 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, while U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas got the backing of 12 percent.

Support for Romney and Gingrich in the Republican race is virtually the same as recorded in a Jan. 4-8 national Pew poll. The backing for Santorum has almost doubled.

Obama Matchups

In the matchups with Obama, the president led Romney 52 percent to 44 percent among all registered voters and ran ahead of Santorum 53 percent to 43 percent. Obama topped Gingrich 57 percent to 39 percent.

The poll’s margin of error in its survey of Republican and Republican-leaning voters is plus-or-minus 5 percentage points; for all registered voters, it is 3.5 points.

While Romney has struggled to unite the party behind his candidacy, he scored a victory over the weekend in a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a group of activists who oppose government spending, abortion rights and gay marriage.

Santorum, who has a record of working against abortion rights, downplayed the CPAC straw poll’s importance, saying Paul had won it in the past by paying for participants’ tickets. He declined to say whether the Romney campaign had rigged this year’s contest when asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Ticket Question

“You have to talk to the Romney campaign and how many tickets they bought,” he said. “We’ve heard all sorts of things.”

Santorum has “a history of making statements that aren’t grounded in the truth,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, said in an e-mail. “Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll.”

In a Feb. 10 speech at the CPAC gathering, Romney termed himself “severely conservative” during his governorship as he sought support from his audience.

The Pew poll shows that, among his party’s electorate, those viewing him as a “strong conservative” has dipped to 42 percent from 53 percent in a November survey.

Santorum said he’s in a strong position heading into the primaries in Arizona and Michigan, where Romney’s father, George Romney, was governor. Santorum’s wins last week underscore his potential strength in the Midwest and Mountain West, particularly in areas with large blue-collar populations.

--With assistance from Amanda Crawford in Mesa, Arizona, and Eric Martin in Washington. Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net; Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


Ebola Rising
LIMITED-TIME OFFER SUBSCRIBE NOW
 
blog comments powered by Disqus