Rasmussen: Santorum Opens 12-Point Lead Over Romney

Wednesday, 15 Feb 2012 01:20 PM

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Building on his triple play of victories in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, former Sen. Rick Santorum has now surged to a 12-point lead over Mitt Romney in the race for the GOP presidential nomination heading into a key battle in Romney’s home state of Michigan.

Political analyst and Democratic pollster Doug Schoen tells Newsmax that Romney’s presidential bid is in “deep trouble” and his campaign badly needs a win in the Great Lakes State before heading into the do-or-die Super Tuesday contests on March 6, where voters in 10 states will pick their candidate to become the GOP presidential nominee.

“Romney is in deep trouble. He’s out of arguments. People don’t buy the central premise of his candidacy that he’s a businessman who can get things moving again,” Schoen said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. “He’s entirely negative — whether it’s about President Obama, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum. And Rick Santorum’s ad basically sums up the case against Mitt Romney: He’s a serial attacker who offers nothing other than negative ads, super PACs, bundlers and special interest money. It’s a recipe for failure.”

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely Republican primary voters released on Wednesday shows Santorum leading with 39 percent support, compared with 27 percent for Romney nationwide.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich follows with 15 percent, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul trails with 10 percent. Another 3 percent of likely Republican voters prefer some other candidate, while 6 percent are undecided, according to the poll.

“Just over a week ago, it was Romney leading the pack with 34 percent after his win in the Florida primary, followed by Gingrich 27 percent, Santorum 18 percent and Paul 11 percent,” said Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports.

“Perhaps more tellingly, Santorum now trounces Romney — 55 percent to 34 percent — in a one-on-one matchup among likely GOP primary voters,” adds Rasmussen. “This is the first time any challenger has led Romney nationally in a head-to-head match-up. Santorum also leads Romney head-to-head in Michigan.”

Nationally, Romney still maintains a lead of 47 percent to 38 percent against Gingrich and 47 percent to 42 percent against Paul.

“Like Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Gingrich before him, Santorum has emerged as the leading anti-Romney candidate and taken the lead in the GOP race. Now the question is will he, unlike his predecessors, be able to hold onto that lead,” Rasmussen said.

He added that 64 percent of likely primary voters nationwide still think Romney ultimately will win the Republican nomination, which is down from 75 percent only a week ago. Some 18 percent now see Santorum as the GOP nominee — up from 3 percent in the previous Rasmussen survey.

“Still, only 45 percent are certain of their vote at this time,” added Rasmussen. “Forty-nine percent say they could yet change their minds, and six percent have no initial preference.”

Forty-one percent of those surveyed continue to view Romney as the strongest potential candidate against President Barack Obama, but that’s also down from 49 percent last week. Another 25 percent of those surveyed now see Santorum as the strongest general election candidate, up from 10 percent. Republican voters view Paul to be the weakest national candidate.

Schoen said that Michigan won’t end Romney’s chances should he lose there. “But if he doesn’t win in Michigan and he loses four straight going into Super Tuesday, Super Tuesday will be do-or-die and he’ll be heading in the wrong direction distinctively and decisively.”

GOP strategist and Fox News contributor Bradley A. Blakeman tells Newsmax that Romney can recover from a loss in Michigan but the momentum will clearly be against him.

“I would say it is must win for Romney,” said Blakeman in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “Romney won that state in 2008. It’s his home state. It’s where his father was the governor. It would be very hard to spin a loss in Michigan. I don’t think it’s over, but it certainly makes things a lot more difficult and certainly Santorum is going to crow all over the place.”

Even if Romney were to prevail in the Arizona contest, which like Michigan is Feb. 28, the focus will be on Romney’s loss.

“It’s going to be very bad if he does not win Michigan,” said Blakeman. “There’s always the next story which is Super Tuesday. Super Tuesday will tell this tale in my opinion for this race and where this race is going. But if Romney were to lose Michigan, and then have trouble on Super Tuesday, I think he’s got some real trouble as to whether he can continue.”

According to Rasmussen, Santorum is leading Romney in Michigan by a margin of 35 percent to 32 percent based on a survey of likely Michigan GOP primary voters released on Tuesday.

Romney was leading Santorum by a margin of 38 percent to 17 percent less than two weeks ago in Michigan.

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