Boosted by a solid debate performance, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has reclaimed the lead in his all-important home state of Michigan with just days to go before voters head to the polls there.
“True to a primary season already marked by sudden and surprising ups and downs, Mitt Romney has jumped back into the lead in Michigan’s Republican primary race,” according to noted pollster Scott Rasmussen, who contacted 750 likely Republican primary voters in Michigan by telephone on Thursday night.
Rasmussen’s latest poll shows Romney now leading former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by a margin of 40 to 34 percent in the Great Lakes State.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who drew laughs and headlines when he called Santorum a “fake” at Wednesday’s debate, edged out former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by a margin of 10 to 9 percent in the latest Rasmussen poll.
Political analysts have described Michigan as a must-win for Romney, not only because it’s his birth state, but because his father served as governor there and Romney enjoys a much stronger organization than the other candidates.
Romney’s advantage in organization and fundraising has been cited as a likely factor for his strong showing in surveys of early Michigan voters.
The former governor of Massachusetts also now enjoys a slight edge over Santorum in the Real Clear Politics average — besting his rival by a margin of 35.2 to 33.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the latest Mitchell/Rosetta Stone Poll of likely Michigan primary voters, which was also conducted on Thursday night, shows the two front-runners locked in a statistical dead heat, with Romney leading by a margin of 36 to 33 percent over Santorum.
Paul was leading Gingrich by a margin of 12 to 9 percent in that poll.
“Romney had to persuade fiscal and social conservatives that he was more conservative than they thought he was. He also had to persuade them that Santorum was not as conservative as Santorum said he was,” according to Steve Mitchell, president of Mitchell Research & Communications, Inc., which surveyed 430 likely primary voters.
The Rasmussen survey has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, while the Mitchell/Rosetta Stone poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax earlier this week Rasmussen predicted that Romney would be able to gain an advantage in the final days before the Michigan vote with his organization and ability to outspend Santorum.
While Santorum’s triple-play of victories in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota caught everyone by surprise, Romney has had much more time to prepare for his home-state showdown.
“I think it all hinges on Michigan,” Rasmussen told Newsmax. “If Gov. Romney loses Michigan his campaign is in serious trouble and it’s partly because it’s his home state. That’s a little bit overrated. It’s partly because this is not a surprise.”
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