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UPDATE: A new poll out of Michigan suggests that Mitt Romney has managed to regain his lead ahead of next week's GOP primary.
According to the Mitchell Research/Rosetta Stone poll survey, the Great Lakes State-born Romney has a 2-point lead on Rick Santorum, 32 percent to 30. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul round out the field with 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively. The same poll from last week found Santorum up by 9 points.
Romney's new lead is within the poll's margin of error, but nonetheless continues a recent polling trend that suggests Romney's heavy spending in Michigan has helped him right the ship ahead of what is seen as a crucial primary test for the one-time clear national front-runner. (A new national poll out Tuesday suggests that Santorum is the one who can now lay claim to that title.)
Here's how MRC pollster Steve Mitchell sees it:
"Reports show Romney is spending twice as much on media as Santorum and it would seem as though it is having an impact. Romney has turned the race around and has gone back into the lead by 2%. Romney has made big inroads with conservatives that had gone to Santorum in the last poll. Santorum's lead among Tea Party voters has been cut from 15% to 5%, his lead with Evangelical Christians has been cut from 16% to 11%, and his huge lead among those that say they are "very conservative" has been cut in half, from 31% to 15%. The strong negative ads being run in Michigan defining Santorum as a big spender have had a huge impact. Romney's message and resources have put him back into the lead."
Monday, Feb. 20: The Republican race was thrown for a loop last week when Public Policy Polling released a survey showing that Rick Santorum had jumped to a 15-point lead in the state where Mitt Romney’s father was governor. Now it looks like Romney is catching up.
The latest PPP poll shows Santorum with 37 percent support, and Romney with 33 percent. Ron Paul is in third place with 15 percent, leaving Newt Gingrich last with 10 percent.
The tightening of the race “is much more a function of Romney gaining than Santorum falling,” notes PPP. Santorum only dropped two points from last week, whereas Romney saw a nine-point increase in support as well as a jump in his favorability ratings. Newt Gingrich’s continued presence in the race seems to be a big advantage for Romney at this point as 45 percent of his voters would go to Santorum if he were to drop out, compared to 29 percent for Romney.
By far the most interesting factor about this latest survey is that while Democrats have been working hard to remind voters about Romney’s opposition to the auto bailouts, including a 2008 New York Times op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” his stance might actually help him in the Michigan primary.
Among Republican voters in the state, the contention that the bailout was a gift from Democrats to unions seems to be gaining steam, notes Politico. Thirty-four percent of Republicans say they’re more likely to vote for someone who opposes the bailout, while 27 percent see it as a negative.
“Rick Santorum continues to have the lead in Michigan, but momentum is now on Mitt Romney’s side,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. The race is also likely to continue tightening before voters go to the polls Feb. 28.
While Republican insiders have increasingly said that a Romney loss in Michigan would be disastrous to his campaign, advisers for the former governor are busy lowering expectations.
“Four years ago we won all three of three of those states [Michigan, Utah and Massachusetts]. Is any one of them a must-win for Mitt Romney? No,” senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said, according to the Hill. He also dismissed the idea that Michigan is Romney’s true home state.
Michigan residents appear to feel the same way. A mere 29 percent of Republicans in the state consider Romney a Michigander, according to the PPP poll.