With Mitt Romney springing ahead and Rick Santorum falling behind, the Republican Party's presidential primary election in Ohio is looking like a dead heat, setting the stage for a cliffhanger of a contest on Super Tuesday this week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday.

Basically, the former governor of Massachusetts and the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, respectively, are tied with 32 percent support from likely voters in the Ohio primary, which is the most important of the 10 state nominating races associated with Super Tuesday.

This race could really go either way between now and Tuesday, Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson told Reuters. If Mitt Romney is able to close this out and win this race, that gives him a leg up in going all the way to the convention and winning the Republican nomination.

Other states with contests on Super Tuesday are Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.

On Saturday, Romney easily finished first in a Washington state presidential straw poll that gave him his fourth victory of the week, as it followed wins in Arizona and Michigan last Tuesday and in Wyoming last Thursday.

With its estimated 66 delegates to the Republican National Convention in August, Ohio could play a key role in deciding which Republican candidate challenges Democratic President Barack Obama in November's general election.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll for Ohio pegged support at 17 percent for former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and at 6 percent for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul from Texas.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Questioned about whom they would back in a two-man race, 44 percent answered they would support Romney, while 43 percent answered they would support Santorum. Dead heat, indeed.

The poll indicated voters were responding to the two candidates for different reasons, Reuters noted.

Among those who favored Romney, a co-founder of the private-equity investment firm Bain Capital, 44 percent said they backed him because they believed he had a better chance at beating Obama in November.

Among those who favored Santorum, a strict conservative on social issues such as abortion and gay rights, 56 percent said they did so because he shared their beliefs and values.

We sort of see that split in the Republican Party between people who are looking for a candidate that believes the same things they do versus the candidate who will perform the best nationally, Ipsos pollster Jackson told Reuters, comparing the difference to a decision between the head and the heart. The most interesting thing that's going to come out of Ohio is seeing which way the Republican [Party] goes as a group.

Conducted between March 1 and 3, the Ohio poll was based on a sample of 917 likely voters in the Republican primary election. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online surveys, but this poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for registered voters, according to Reuters.