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Buckeye Battleground: GOP Race Tightens in Ohio, Romney Again Leads Nationally

It appears Mitt Romney has built some momentum coming off of Tuesday's twin wins in Michigan and Arizona.  The former governor has again seized substantial leads in two polls of national Republicans.  Gallup:


A new national poll shows Mitt Romney increasing his lead to 11 percentage points over top challenger Rick Santorum as the Republican presidential campaign intensified ahead of Super Tuesday's crucial votes in 10 states. The latest Gallup tracking poll showed Romney -- boosted by an outright win this week in Arizona and a slim win in his home state of Michigan -- with 35 percent support, to 24 percent for Santorum. The Gallup survey represents a daily snapshot of a candidate's standing.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters shows Romney with 40% support to 24% for the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. This is Romney's biggest lead to date and the highest level of support any GOP candidate has earned in regular surveying of the race. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum 39%, Romney 27%

Interesting stuff, but national polls have been historically volatile this cycle, enhancing the relevance and importance of state-level polls.  As we appraoch Super Tuesday's ten contests, we're beginning to see a clearer picture of what to expect. Georgia appears to be Gingrich country (it had better be, it's his home state):

Favorite son Newt Gingrich now holds a double-digit lead over his closest rival in the Georgia Republican Primary race. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters in Georgia shows Gingrich with 38% support to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 26%. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum now runs third with 20% of the vote.

Tennessee and Oklahoma look like pretty good bets for Santorum, even though the former Senator didn't qualify a full slate of delegates in the Volunteer State.  Romney is looking strong in Massachusetts and Vermont, of course, and also appears poised to win Idaho (hey look, actual enthusiam) sweep all of Virginia's 49 winner-take-all delegates.  That task was made much easier when Gingrich and Santorum failed to qualify for the ballot:
Mitt Romney holds a commanding lead in Virginia, but a new poll also indicates that he's that not so popular among Republican primary voters in the Super Tuesday state. According to a Roanoke College survey released Thursday, 56% of people likely to vote in Virginia's March 6 primary say they're backing the former Massachusetts governor, who's making his second bid for the GOP nomination. Twenty-one percent are supporting Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich failed to get on the ballot in Virginia, and won't be able to compete for the [49] delegates up for grabs.

Then there are the Alaska and North Dakota's caucuses, for which polling is very hard to come by.  For what it's worth, Romney was in North Dakota yesterday, and Ron Paul is headed to Alaska.  Which leaves the big prize: The crucial swing state of Ohio and its 66 delegates.  Rick Santorum was up big in the state heading into Tuesday night, but it looks like Romney's recent victories are pushing this race into too-close-to-call territory:

The first Ohio poll since Mitt Romney pulled off twin wins Tuesday night in Michigan and Arizona shows him picking up ground but still trailing Rick Santorum by four percentage points. The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday and Thursday, put Mr. Santorum at 35% and Mr. Romney at 31%, within the poll’s margin of error. Mr. Santorum commanded a seven-percentage-point lead over his top rival in a Quinnipiac poll released the day before Tuesday’s Michigan primary

CNN's Republican focus group on Tuesday night showed a significant shift from Santorum to Romney over the course of the evening, so it's safe to say that Romney has the wind at his back.  That being said, ABC News just dropped a scoop -- a video showing Mitt Romney bragging about his Washington connections and ability to secure earmarks in 2002, a practice for which he's criticized Rick Santorum.  The Santorum campaign is trying to give oxygen to the story.  Will it stick?



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