Romney lags behind a surging Santorum in US polls
Feb 15, 2012, 2:47 GMT
Washington - Former US senator Rick Santorum pulled ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, according to polling of voters in the heated race for the centre-right Republican Party's presidential nomination.
CBS television and The New York Times released a joint nationwide poll Tuesday that showed 30 per cent of Republican primary voters supported a surging Santorum, 53, while 27 per cent supported Romney, 64, long labelled the front runner.
While the lead is within the margin of sampling error, the figures reflected what the Times called a 'significant' jump in nationwide standing for the former senator from Pennsylvania. A month before, Romney led a field of at least four candidates with 28-per-cent support while Santorum lagged behind with 16 per cent.
The latest poll echoed the findings of realclearpolitics.com, an internet organization that averages major polls. As of Tuesday, the website had Santorum with 30.8-per-cent support and former Massachusetts governor Romney at 29.2 per cent.
Newt Gingrich, 68, the firebrand former speaker of the House of Representatives, has fallen to third place at 16.2 per cent while libertarian Ron Paul, 76, a congressman from Texas, ranked at bottom, where he has usually hovered since state nominating contests began in January.
Romney is seen as the most moderate of the candidates. Santorum and Gingrich fault him for not being conservative enough on economic as well as social matters, such as abortion, to suit the party's conservative tea party faction.
All eyes now turn to February 28 when Republicans in the industrial state of Michigan and the western state of Arizona are to indicate their presidential preference.
Until this week, Romney was regarded as the favourite in Michigan, where he was born and where his father, George Romney, was an car industry executive and governor.
But Romney's strong opposition to President Barack Obama's bailout of the car industry has alienated many voters in the traditional heart of the US car industry, which was especially hard-hit by the recent recession. Most of the bailout money has been repaid, and tens of thousands of workers have gone back to revived jobs.
After the Michigan primary comes the all-important Super Tuesday on March 6 when 11 states vote at one time. But Republicans showed no signs of settling on a candidate.
The winner of the Republican race would face Obama in the November 6 election.