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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney Neck and Neck in Ohio

By Shira Schoenberg

 
Rick Santorum is narrowly leading Romney in the crucial Super Tuesday state of Ohio, according to a Suffolk University poll out this afternoon.

The poll found Santorum with 37 percent support among likely Republican primary voters in Ohio, followed by Romney with 33 percent. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich came in a distant third at 16 percent trailed by Texas Representative Ron Paul with 8 percent. Santorum’s lead was just within the poll’s 4.4 percent margin of error.

The former Pennsylvania senator was ahead of Romney by a large margin (17 points) among voters who cast early ballots, but his margin shrank to three points among those who have not yet voted.

Ohio, with its 66 delegates, is considered a top prize among the 10 states voting on Tuesday. Romney and Santorum have been hotly contesting the race. Santorum surged in the polls, overtaking the former Massachusetts governor, after his Feb. 7 victories in Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota. But Romney has been going after Santorum aggressively in advertising and on the campaign trail and has been closing the gap.

According to the Suffolk poll, Santorum’s strength is in his ability to relate to voters. Thirty three percent said Santorum’s political beliefs were the closest to their own, compared to all the GOP candidates.

 But Romney, as he has been throughout the race, remains the strongest when it comes to electability. A full 44 percent of voters ranked Romney as the candidate with the best chance of beating Democratic President Obama. If Santorum becomes the nominee, 15 percent of Republican voters said they would either vote for Obama or a third party candidate. If Romney were the nominee, that number would drop to 10 percent.

Overall, the Suffolk poll found that voters are not happy with the Republican race. Half of respondents said they are not happy with the current crop of candidates, and 47 percent would like to see a new candidate enter the race.

The survey of 500 likely Ohio Republican primary voters was conducted March 3-4.
 
 
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