In national polling Mitt Romney is continuing the ascent that began with the rollout of his tax plan and his strong debate performance on Feb. 22. On that day, in the RealClearPolitics national average, Romney had 28.4 percent of the vote, and Rick Santorum stood at 33.7 percent. Today Romney is at 35.3 percent and Santorum at 29.3 percent. Considering that the RCP average includes pre-Michigan data, Romney’s actual lead now is much larger than six points. Since Super Tuesday includes 10 states in various regions, the RCP national trend will likely be reflected in state polling post-Michigan.
How Romney’s bump translates into a specific state such as Ohio, however, is not entirely clear. Given that before Michigan he was down more than 8 points in the RCP average, he will have to work hard in a state in which Santorum is a well-known figure from a neighboring state.
It probably didn’t help Rick Santorum to lose it on a talk radio show in Cincinnati today. But one bad radio moment isn’t going to do him in, and both Santorum and Romney will be back in Ohio Friday evening. Given that Romney’s camp understands that Ohio is a must-win for Santorum, you should expect to see Romney in the Buckeye State for a good part of the weekend.
For now, however, Romney is enjoying something of a honeymoon following Michigan. In Idaho he had an enormous and boisterous crowd. If that sort of turnout follows him through the weekend and he continues his climb in national polling, it stands to reason that he’ll be narrowing the gap or perhaps going ahead in Ohio. Earlier in North Dakota he was talking energy and jobs, focusing mostly on the president. (“When someone says do you want to bring in a pipeline that’s going to create tens of thousands of jobs to bring oil in from Canada, how in the world could you say no? But he did. This is a president who does not understand energy. He is the problem. He is not the solution. It’s time to get him out of office and get someone in who will get us energy secure.”) For Romney, every day with overflowing crowds and on-message performances is a good one. And when he is talking primarily about Obama rather than Santorum, you know confidence is running high.
Santorum’s problem isn’t hard to discern: In a short time, with no debates he has to find a way to halt Romney’s momentum and eke out a win in Ohio. Can it be done? Yes. Will that be easy? Not so long as Romney remains stubbornly on message and upbeat.