Remember before Florida when fresh off of a victory in the South Carolina Primary Newt Gingrich declared that the Republican GOP presidential nomination race was now a two-person race?  He was right.  Except he got the candidates confused.

This is a two person race between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.  After Santorum’s three state sweep last Tuesday he has surged in national polls.  Public Policy Polling has him leading Romney nationally:

They compare the race with Gingrich and without:

With Gingrich:

  1. Santorum: 38%
  2. Romney: 23%
  3. Gingrich: 17%
  4. Ron Paul: 13%

Without Gingrich:

  1. Santorum: 50%
  2. Romney: 28%
  3. Paul: 15%

They note:

Part of the reason for Santorum’s surge is his own high level of popularity. 64% of voters see him favorably to only 22% with a negative one. But the other, and maybe more important, reason is that 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). Gingrich has fallen even further. A 44% plurality of GOP voters now hold a negative opinion of him to only 42% with a positive one. That’s a 34 point drop from 2 months ago when he was at +32 (60/28).

Santorum is now completely dominating with several key segments of the electorate, especially the most right leaning parts of the party. With those describing themselves as ‘very conservative,’ he’s now winning a majority of voters at 53% to 20% for Gingrich and 15% for Romney. Santorum gets a majority with Tea Party voters as well at 51% to 24% for Gingrich and 12% for Romney. And with Evangelicals he falls just short of a majority with 45% to 21% for Gingrich and 18% for Romney.

Fox News also polled and they found a Santorum surge:

  1. Romney: 33%
  2. Romney: 23%
  3. Gingrich: 22%
  4. Paul: 15%

The surge is indicated over four days of polling:

In interviews conducted on Monday and Tuesday nights — immediately before the news of his victories — Santorum received the backing of 17 percent of GOP primary voters. That was well behind Romney (35 percent) and Newt Gingrich (26 percent), and slightly ahead of Ron Paul (14 percent).

In interviews conducted on Wednesday and Thursday nights — after his wins — Santorum’s support nearly doubled, which put him tied at the top with Romney for those two days at 30 percent. That’s an increase of 13 percentage points. Over the last two nights, Romney also received 30 percent, a drop of 5 points. Gingrich came in at 16 percent, down 10 points. Paul’s support held steady at 15 percent.

With the news that Gingrich’s Super PAC funding has dried up and he’s having to focus more on fundraising than campaigning suggests to me that perhaps his time in the race is done.  Also last Tuesday, especially with the win in Colorado and Minnesota (two states that Romney won last time) the electability argument that Romney had been giving should be thrown out the window.  Also recent tracking polls show that his numbers are no better than Santorum’s.  While Santorum can’t rest in his laurels, like we’ve seen throughout the race that support has been soft.  Romney has already said that he was going to give Santorum more attention so his numbers could drop.  However Santorum’s going to be going after Romney’s record as well and it’s far from glowing.

What we see now is that voters in upcoming primary states are getting a clear message that Santorum isn’t the risky bet they were once told to believe.  So I guess we can postpone Romney’s coronation.

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