Rick Santorum Passes Mitt Romney - National Poll Shows Tight Race

  @DanRivoli on February 14 2012 11:50 AM
  • Republican presidential candidate Santorum listens as Romney speaks
    Rick Santorum, left, and Mitt Romney are now running neck-and-neck for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, according to a new national poll. What's more, Santorum has more support from self-described conservatives. REUTERS
  • 2012 Election
    Rick Santorum, left, and Mitt Romney are now running neck-and-neck for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, according to a new national poll. What's more, Santorum has more support from self-described conservatives. REUTERS
1 of 2

Rick Santorum's three-state victory in last week's primary contests has given the former Pennsylvania senator a boost in the national polls, with one finding him neck and neck with Mitt Romney.

A new CBS/New York Times poll shows Santorum leading Romney 30 to 27 percent of Republican primary voters.

Santorum's slim lead is within the margin of error, but it shows him consolidating support from key GOP primary constituencies that could cement his candidacy as the alternative to Romney. Ron Paul of Texas has 12 percent in the poll, with Newt Gingrich at the bottom, with 10 percent.

Santorum Gains Support Among Conservatives

Among self-described conservatives, Santorum bests Romney 38 to 24 percent. A month ago, conservatives were nearly evenly split between Santorum, Romney and Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker.

The socially conservative former senator is also drawing support from tea party supporters and white evangelicals, according to the poll. Mitt Romney has 24 percent of conservative support, while Gingrich has 12 percent; Paul has 5 percent, drawing his support from libertarians and young unaffiliated voters.

The latest Santorum surge follows a surprise sweep of contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado -- two of which are states Romney won during his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign.

Next up for the Santorum camp is Michigan's which holds its primary Feb. 28. Santorum has a slight lead in a state where Romney grew up and his father served as governor. But Romney is not enjoying a favorite son status in the Great Lakes State. Nonetheless, his supporters behind a pro-Romney Super PAC have deployed nearly a million dollars for advertising to stamp-out an embarrassing Santorum victory

GOP Voters: Too Soon to Commit to a Candidate

Despite the latest boost for Santorum, the poll showed that many Republican primary voters, 60 percent, feel it is too early to settle on a candidate; the massive 10-state Super Tuesday contest on March 6 is still weeks away. That gives another candidate time to consolidate support.

It underlines... that this field is still very volatile and Mitt Romney has still not sealed the deal with conservatives, a very large part of his party, Bob Scheiffer, CBS News' Washington news chief, said regarding the poll.

That is certainly good news for Gingrich, whose burst of support following his South Carolina victory has since disintegrated.

When asked about dropping out, as per the conservative National Review magazine's request, Gingrich said Monday he will stay the course.

I believe in a few weeks, he said, I'll return to being the leader in the Gallup poll.

--

Join the Discussion