Rasmussen: Santorum Surge Has ‘Substance’

Thursday, 16 Feb 2012 12:18 PM

By Paul Scicchitano

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While front-runners have come and gone in the volatile Republican nomination process, noted pollster and author Scott Rasmussen tells Newsmax that Rick Santorum’s surge appears to be based on “substance.”

Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, also released a new poll today showing the former Pennsylvania senator now leading in the critical battleground state of Ohio.

The poll shows Santorum leading at 42 percent, compared with Romney at 24 percent, and Gingrich and Paul trailing with 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“Rick Santorum is probably the last of the not-Romney candidates to surge. He’s clearly in front right now. We have him out by 12 points nationally. He’s up a little bit in Michigan,” Rasmussen said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax on Thursday. “The only question is whether Santorum is any different from Michele Bachmann, Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich, who also were front-runners ahead of Romney at some point in the polls and there appears to be some more substance to the Santorum surge.”

Rasmussen, who also is co-founder of the sports network ESPN, said Santorum — unlike previous front-runners — beats Romney in a head-to-head matchup. “The numbers show that this is the first time there has been a not-Romney challenger who wins a head-to-head matchup with Romney,” said Rasmussen, noting that such matchups in the past have been tossups or favored the former Massachusetts governor.

“The reason for that was that, in the case of Gingrich, if other candidates dropped out, while Gingrich got some of their support, so did Romney,”  Rasmussen observed. “What we’re seeing right now is if Gingrich were out of the race, his supporters overwhelmingly would go against Romney. So whether it’s about Rick Santorum or just about the nature of the race, we’re finally seeing a point where as the challengers drop out, support consolidates against Mitt Romney.”

The dual contests on Feb. 28 — in Romney’s home state of Michigan and in Arizona — will be of paramount importance in deciding the race, Rasmussen said.

“If Mitt Romney wins both Michigan and Arizona, I think the race is effectively over,” Rasmussen predicted. “If Rick Santorum wins, well then it’s going to be a whole new ball game — if he wins either one of those.”

A Romney loss in either of those states would further erode the former Massachusetts governor's chances. “If he loses Michigan in a big way, a lot of the Romney story line about invincibility and electability begins to crumble,” Rasmussen explained.

“Rick Santorum will be the new front-runner heading into Super Tuesday [March 6]. He would probably be expected to do well in Ohio and some other states on that day, and you all of a sudden hear an awful lot more talk about, could we be heading to an open convention with no one getting more than 50 percent of the vote?”

That would alter the entire complexion of the race, Rasmussen said. “The entire discussion of the race would be different because from the beginning until now it’s always been Romney vs. not-Romney. If Santorum wins Michigan, does well on Super Tuesday, then all of that changes,” he said.

He added, nevertheless, that one of Romney’s key strengths has been his ability to pivot and regroup, as he did following Santorum’s triple victories in Missouri, Colorado, and Minnesota.

“The thing to pay attention to is what happens when the avalanche of ads begins to grow against Rick Santorum,” Rasmussen said. “If his numbers hold up, that will tell us one story. If the Romney campaign is effective in moving Santorum’s numbers down quickly that will be another early warning sign. I’m sure there will be plenty of polling between now and the 28th. We’re going to do several more polls ourselves in both Michigan and Arizona and we’ll be watching for the impact of those ads.”



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