The topsy-turvy Republican presidential race has taken another turn, this time in Mitt Romney’s favor. Romney now holds a 32% to 28% advantage over Rick Santorum after Santorum led for most of the last 10 days, including a 10-percentage-point advantage a week ago. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul remain well behind Romney and Santorum.
The latest results are based on Feb. 22-26 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 1,160 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide who are registered to vote. They show Romney gaining momentum nationally heading into Tuesday’s important Michigan and Arizona primaries, the first contests in nearly three weeks. Santorum surged to his first lead in Gallup’s tracking after he swept the Feb. 7 contests in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado. Santorum’s decline in recent days has come as Romney and Paul, in particular, have stepped up their criticism of his voting record in Congress and his positions on issues.
I have been sensing the change in momentum back to Mitt Romney.
The fact is that Rick Santorum does not have the resources to compete with all of the campaign cash that Mitt Romney can use attacking him with negative advertising.
So, even if Rick Santorum does not win Michigan tomorrow, but does well, the GOP field will go into Super Tuesday and Southern states where both Santorum and/or Newt Gingrich will be better positioned to win delegates.
This race is not over by a long shot.
The Republican nomination contest is entering a crucial phase with the Michigan and Arizona primaries on Tuesday and 10 state primaries or caucuses on March 6. To the extent Romney, Santorum, or one of the other candidates wins the bulk of these contests, he will likely emerge as the strong front-runner for the GOP nomination.
Although the lead has changed hands a number of times over the course of the campaign, Romney has been consistently near the top. His standing suggests he is perhaps not embraced enough by the party to emerge as the clear and consistent front-runner, but he has been better able than his rivals to withstand the scrutiny that comes with being a leading contender for the nomination.