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Santorum’s Near-Tie in Iowa Elevates him to second among Republicans nationally, Gaining Ground in New Hampshire where Romney remains ahead

by | Jan 6, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

(Left to right) Rep. Ron Paul, former Gov. Mitt Romney, former Senator Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum’s virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus Tuesday is not only affording his candidacy an unprecedented amount of media attention and contributions, the photo-finish has vaulted the former Pennsylvania senator into second place among likely Republican primary voters nationally.

“The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, taken the night after the caucuses, shows Romney again in first place with support from 29% of Likely Republican Primary Voters, followed by Santorum with 21%,” Rasmussen reported earlier today. “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the pack in late November with 38% of the vote, now runs third with 16%.”

The results suggest that Romney has rebounded to the level of support he enjoyed in October while Santorum “has rocketed from four percent (4%) in the previous survey and one percent (1%) at the beginning of November,” according to Rasmussen.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who finished fourth in Iowa) garnered 16%. Rep Ron Paul (who finished third in Iowa) moved up from 4% in a previous Rasmussen survey to 8%. Tied with 4% in this survey of 1,000 likely Republican Primary voters are Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.

The immediate flashpoint is, of course, New Hampshire, which holds the first in the nation primary next Tuesday. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader,

“The first post-Iowa caucus poll of New Hampshire GOP primary voters (surveying those who were watching the caucus results) put Romney at one of his best showings yet — 47 percent. That was a full 30 percentage points ahead of second-place candidate Ron Paul’s 17 percent, with Jon Huntsman at 13 percent, surprise Iowa virtual co-winner Rick Santorum at 10 percent and Newt Gingrich at 9 percent.

“The 2012 [New Hampshire] primary, then, should be a race for second place. Santorum, in an interview yesterday, said it well: ‘New Hampshire can make a huge statement here. New Hampshire can choose the conservative alternative (to Romney) and that’s really what this is about.’”

Another way of looking at roughly the same results in New Hampshire comes from The Washington Times/JZ Analytics Poll, taken Wednesday: Santorum’s numbers have tripled from last week, leading pollster John Zogby to tell  the Times, “We’re seeing an Iowa bounce, clearly, already for Santorum.” Romney leads with 38% to 24% for Paul and 11% for Santorum.

Rasmussen’s latest national telephone survey confirms the common thread to the last year: volatility

“It’s important to note that just 34% of likely GOP primary voters say they are certain of their vote at this time,” he said. “Fifty-five percent (55%) say they still could change their mind, and 11% don’t have an initial preference yet. Those certain of their vote include 44% of Paul’s supporters, 43% of those who back Romney and 40% of Gingrich’s voters. Just 30% of those who support Santorum are certain of their vote at this time.”

That certainly was the case in Iowa, where virtually every Republican lead at one time or another. And an amazing number of caucus-goers were making up their minds at the last moment, including the day of the caucuses.

From polling taken on Tuesday, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found

“Nearly half of Iowa caucus voters (46%) said they decided their vote on the day of the caucuses or in the days leading up to them. Four years ago, 30% said they decided on the day of the voting or in the three days before. Santorum won about a third of the votes from late deciders, more than any other candidate.”

Thirteen percent said that abortion was the most important issue in choosing a candidate. “[T]these voters overwhelmingly backed Santorum.”

“Independents comprised nearly a quarter (23%) of GOP caucus voters, up from 13% four years ago. As was the case in 2008, roughly six-in-ten caucus voters were white evangelicals.”

As a potential co-front runner Santorum will come under increased criticism from his GOP competitors. For the moment pro-abortionists continue to aim their artillery at Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

“NARAL communications director Ted Miller said the group focused on Romney in part because he was the actual winner,” according to The Hill Newspaper’s Sam Baker.”But the group is also concerned that Santorum’s popularity with social conservatives could leave the impression that Romney is more moderate on abortion. ‘It’s very important that voters know he is not a moderate alternative’ to any of the conservative candidates remaining in the GOP primary, Miller said.”

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Categories: Politics