Pew poll: Rick Santorum catches Mitt Romney

at 01:54 PM ET, 02/13/2012

Rick Santorum has tied Mitt Romney in national support among Republicans, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Gallup also found a statistical tie between the two.
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney Rick Santorum pass by each other during a break in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Charleston, S.C. (JASON REED - REUTERS)

Conventional wisdom often has it that Romney’s position shifts are a known quantity from his 2008 run — they are “baked into the cake,” so opposition research and negative ads are unlikely to change voters’ perceptions much. This survey suggests otherwise.

In Pew polling done Feb. 8-12, 30 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters support the ex-Pennsylvania senator, while 28 percent prefer the former Massachusetts governor. A month ago, Romney led Santorum by double digits.

Santorum’s surge is fueled by tea party supporters and white evangelicals. The staunch social conservative takes votes from Romney, not any other candidate — support for former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul remains stagnant.

Even worse news for Romney: Doubt about him is growing, especially among tea party Republicans. Fewer voters see him as a strong conservative and as someone who takes consistent positions than did three months ago.

Romney has also suffered with independent voters in a head-to-head matchup with President Obama, falling from 50 percent to 42 percent in the past month. Over the past three months, there has been a 19-point-swing among independents from Romney towards Obama.

A majority of independents used to consider Romney honest and trustworthy as well as qualified for office; that is no longer true.

Romney still outperforms Santorum with independents . Obama would take the group 54 to 40 percent in a matchup with Santorum. But Romney does not perform much better overall — Obama leads him by eight points and Santorum by 10 among all registered voters.

National polls are just a snapshot in time, not a prediction of election outcomes. At this moment, it appears Romney is losing support on both sides — the conservatives he needs to win the nomination and the independents he needs to win the general.

 
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