Romney, Santorum In Dead Heat for the GOP Nomination

Monday, 13 Feb 2012 05:28 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum has vaulted into a front-runner’s position with Mitt Romney in two national polls that show the race for the GOP nomination becoming a two-man statistical tie.

Romney and Santorum are tied for the lead among Republican voters 32 to 30 percent, respectively in a Gallup Poll. And the Pew Research Center has the leaders flipped, with Santorum leading Romney 30 percent to 28 percent.

Because of the polls' margin of error the two are in a statistical dead heat.

In the Gallup poll, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has dropped to 16 percent, Ron Paul is at 8 percent, the lowest number he's had during the 2012 contest.

The polls reflect the topsy-turvy nature of this GOP race, with Santorum shaking up the perceived front-runner's status after winning all three contests on Feb. 7 — Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Santorum charged Sunday that Romney has responded by making “desperate” attacks on his conservative credentials to regain his footing.

“Another candidate has come up to challenge him, and this time 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.”

Romney’s attacks show “you reach a point where desperate people do desperate things,” Santorum said.

Romney is struggling to win over conservatives who feel he does not represent their causes, while Santorum is surging among them.

According to the Pew Survey, “Santorum is now the clear favorite of Republican and GOP-leaning voters who agree with the tea party, as well as white evangelical Republicans,” the Pew survey found. “Currently, 42 percent of tea party Republican voters favor Santorum, compared with just 23 percent who back Romney. Santorum holds an almost identical advantage among white evangelical Republican voters (41 percent to 23 percent).”

On Sunday,  former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin voiced her concerns about that:

"I am not convinced [of Romney's conservatism] and I don’t think that the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced, and that is why you don’t see Romney get over that hump," Palin said. "He is still in the thirty-percentile mark when it comes to approval and primary wins and caucus wins. He still hasn't risen above that yet because we are not convinced. ... He has spent millions and millions and millions of dollars and hasn't risen yet."

Meanwhile, Romney, in an interview with Newsmax, fired back at those who say he is not conservative enough to be the GOP nominee.

“I’m really happy to have a number of leading conservatives as part of my team, including Al Cardenas, who is the head of CPAC here," Romney told Newsmax from the annual conference. "I am a person who is conservative not just based on readings but based on experience. I’ve lived conservatism, lived it in my home, in my business, my faith.

“And as governor of Massachusetts I was fighting the battles that conservatives are now having to fight nationally — on same-sex marriage, on matters of intrusion of state into their rights to worship according to their conscience. My bona fides as a conservative have been tested time and again.”

In the Gallup poll, the first since Santorum's Feb. 7 sweep of state contests, he seems to have surged 14 points, from 16 percent to 30 percent, at the expense of other candidates. Both Romney and Gingrich declined by 5 and 6 points, respectively, and Paul dropped 3 points.

Romney's camp says it's undeterred by the numbers.

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

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was campaigning in Arizona, with a rally scheduled in Mesa. The state holds its primary on Feb. 28, along with Michigan.

Santorum was campaigning in Washington.

Santorum and 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. Monday, National Review Online suggested Gingrich should step aside.

“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. Now, 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.”

Gingrich campaigned in California Monday, holding a “Hispanic Leadership Event” in South El Monte and a reception in Pasadena.

In the Pew Poll, Gingrich drew the support of 17 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, while U.S. Rep. 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.

The Pew poll also measured a matchup among the candidates vs. President Barack Obama. 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 last 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, Sunday 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.

Saying the Republican nomination contest is now a “two- person race,” Santorum said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday that he had “raised over $3 million this week alone and money continues to pour in.”

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 Feb. 7 wins underscore his potential strength in the Midwest and Mountain West, particularly in areas with large blue-collar populations.

Romney didn’t devote many resources to the Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado contests, none of which allotted any national convention delegates. He has millions of dollars available for television advertising in the coming weeks from his campaign and a super-PAC that supports his candidacy.

And Palin, a favorite of the tea party movement within the Republican Party, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Republican chances of defeating Obama won’t be hurt by an extended campaign for the party’s nomination as long as the candidates don’t spend the time attacking one another.

“They need to quit beating each other up,” said Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. “We need to hear from our candidates the solutions, what is their plan to get us back on the right road in America? We haven’t heard that yet.”

 


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