Last week Public Policy Polling teased their latest polling by tweeting that Rick Santorum had taken the lead nationally. Today that information was formally released.
Rick Santorum has opened up a wide lead in PPP’s newest national poll. He’s at 38% to 23% for Mitt Romney, 17% for Newt Gingrich, and 13% for Ron Paul.
38% doesn’t strike me as a ringing endorsement but it beats the other guys. But what’s driving these numbers? Is it simply Santorum’s rather surprising beat-down of his competition last Tuesday?
That’s just part of it. The other part is that people don’t like Mitt Romney (or New Gingrich).
Republicans are significantly souring on both Romney and Gingrich. Romney’s favorability is barely above water at 44/43, representing a 23 point net decline from our December national poll when he was +24 (55/31)
Newt’s numbers are even worse. Meanwhile, people like (!) Rick Santorum by a margin of 64% – 22%. For now, anyway.
So what does this mean for the GOP primary season? Is Romney done as the frontrunner? If so, for how long? Can Santorum ride the momentum to a few more primary/caucus wins?
The Maine caucuses are today where Romney had a tough time at a townhall yesterday. Then we have Arizona and Michigan on February 28th. Michigan isn’t a lock and Arizona seems it may just be nutty enough to go Santorum’s way. March 3rd is Washington followed by … Super Tuesday with Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia (with only Romney and Paul on the ballot). Seems like Santorum could do quite well in several of those states. I would suppose Romney would win MA but has he pissed off enough Bay Staters to make it interesting?
Then we head to Kansas, Wyoming, US Virgin Islands and Guam. Then Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi on March 13th. That’s a month. To my mind the calendar doesn’t make Romney’s run easy. Perhaps his best states come in mid-April. So, does this drag on for two more months? Can Romney ever deliver some knock-out punch or will he limp to the convention? Or, OMG, does Santorum actually have a chance?