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Horseracism: Santorum surge continues

To the best of the pollsters ability to determine such things, the Rick Santorum surge is continuing.

To the best of the pollsters ability to determine such things, the Rick Santorum surge is continuing. Two more polls (one by American Research Group, and one by Public Policy Polling) show Santorum leading Mitt Romney in Michigan, the state where Romney grew up and where his father was a very popular (although, it must be mentioned, very moderate Republican) governor for two terms in the 1960s. The PPP poll has Santorum ahead by a fairly ridiculous 39-24 margin over Romney (with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul further back); I’m skeptical of that margin.

Now Andy Kohut of the Pew Center, one of the most credible of the old-school, non-robo-dialing pollsters, is out with a new national survey of Republicans and Repub-leaning likely voters that shows Santorum ahead by a statistically insignificant 30-28. Kohut’s full analysis is here

If you don’t click through, here are Kohut’s first two paragraphs on who is fueling the Santorum surge:

“Rick Santorum’s support among Tea Party Republicans and white evangelicals is surging, and he now has pulled into a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. In polling conducted Feb. 8-12, 30% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters favor Santorum while 28% favor Romney. As recently as a month ago, Romney held a 31% to 14% advantage over Santorum among all GOP voters.

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Santorum is now the clear favorite of Republican and GOP-leaning voters who agree with the Tea Party, as well as white evangelical Republicans. Currently, 42% of Tea Party Republican voters favor Santorum, compared with just 23% who back Romney. Santorum holds an almost identical advantage among white evangelical Republican voters (41% to 23%).”

In trial heats for the general election, Kohut also shows Pres. Obama leading Romney by 52-44; leading Santorum by 53-43; and leading Gingrich by 57-39. I wouldn’t treat these numbers as any kind of prediction for November, but they are unhelpful to Romney. Yes, he runs better against Obama in this trial than Santorum, but only by one point. That won’t help him make the electability argument.

The other big primary in the next (Feb. 28) round is Arizona. For some reason (and let me be clear that I am never going to mourn a shortage of polling), there is no fresh published polling out of Arizona since Santorum’s Feb. 7 trifecta.

One last point so I can leave horseracism alone for a while: The pundits are convinced (and the campaign trail reporters are hearing this from the Romneyites) that Team Romney cannot afford to go after Santorum as savagely as it went after Gingrich when he briefly led Romney in the polls because Romney is developing a reputation as a candidate who relies on big-bankroll negative advertising campaigning, which suggests that he can’t make a positive case for himself.