Government
6:48 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Romney and Santorum Neck and Neck Heading into Primary

Less than a month before the April 24th primary, a new presidential poll shows Rick Santorum's wide lead over Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania has vanished. [PDF]

The Franklin and Marshall College survey shows the former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator leading Mitt Romney among Republican respondents by two points, with Santorum performing best in central and western Pennsylvania, and Romney appealing to voters in the northeast and southeast portions of the state.

Poll director Terry Madonna said Santorum beats Romney when it comes to being a "true conservative" and having strong moral character, but he said the poll reveals those factors are becoming less important to voters than whether or not the GOP nominee can beat President Obama.

"It's the rise of 'can beat Obama' and the decline of 'true conservative' elements that I think also help explain why the race is much closer than it was a month ago," Madonna said.

A Franklin and Marshall College poll last month showed Santorum's lead over Romney to be almost 30 points.

Madonna said the narrowing gap can be chalked up to Santorum's straying from talk of the economy to focus more on social issues.

"About a month ago, Santorum veered off his message about economy and foreign policy and went immediately to a question about social issues," said Madonna. "And that, I think, is largely responsible for the drop in his numbers."

According to the survey, 32 percent of voters say the economy is the most important issue. The poll shows Ron Paul with nine percent support among Republican voters questioned and Newt Gingrich with six percent.