Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) is well on his way toward solidifying his front-runner status among national Republicans, according to a new Gallup poll released Monday afternoon.
Romney is the choice of 37 percent of registered Republicans nationwide. That’s a greater share of support than that enjoyed by former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (14 percent), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (14 percent) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (5 percent) combined. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) takes 12 percent among registered Republicans nationally.
The survey, which was taken from Jan. 11-15, has a margin of error of four percentage points.
Romney’s support nationally has rocketed up 13 points from Jan. 2, the eve of the former Massachusetts governor’s Iowa caucus win. Then, his five-day average in the Gallup poll was 24 percent.
Most political observers are quick to note that the presidential nomination race is not a national contest — rather, it’s a state-by-state one, where dynamics can change dramatically depending on the outcome of a particular primary, caucus or debate. And national polls in the past have been woefully off target (if the early national polls of the 2008 race had been correct, it would have been a Hillary Clinton-Rudy Giuliani race).
But now, as the GOP primary race hits the first-in-the-South primary state of South Carolina, there’s reason to begin paying closer attention to national polls. As Gallup notes, since 1976, the GOP candidate who has led the national polls after the New Hampshire primary has ultimately gone on to win his party’s nomination.
Romney isn’t only leading — he’s leading by 23 points. And, if history is any guide, that will likely be a tough deficit for any of his remaining four competitors to overcome.