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Poll: Santorum Leads Romney, Both Come Close to Obama

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney nationally in the party’s nomination race and both pose a threat to President Barack Obama’s re-election, according to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Santorum won the support of 35 percent of registered Republicans and independents who lean toward the party, while 26 percent backed Romney in a Feb. 14-20 survey by the institute released today.

Obama would beat Santorum, 47 percent to 44 percent, in a hypothetical matchup, while topping Romney 46 percent to 44 percent, the poll shows.

The results reflect a boost for Santorum after he swept the Feb. 7 contests in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota. They also show that the attacks being exchanged between the two campaigns aren’t hurting either candidate’s standing against Obama, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the institute.

“Romney and Santorum still do very well against the president,” Brown said in an interview. “It does not appear in the general election to be hurting them to a sizable degree.”

Santorum’s standing nationwide will change based on whether the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania can pull off victories in the Feb. 28 primaries in Arizona and Michigan (BEESMI), Brown said. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was born in Michigan and a Santorum win there would shake up the race again, he said.

Following States

“National polls tend to follow state voting,” Brown said.

In the survey from Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has the support of 14 percent of Republican-leaning voters and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas gets 11 percent.

With those two removed from the race, the poll finds Santorum’s lead grows over Romney, 50 percent to 37 percent.

Santorum’s standing is “built on the votes of Republican men, Tea Party supporters and white evangelical Christians,” Brown said in a statement released in conjunction with the poll.

The prospect of no candidate locking down the nomination before the party’s national convention convenes Aug. 27 in Tampa, Florida, is viewed negatively by the Republican-inclined voters, 48 percent to 37 percent.

If delegates had to pick a candidate not now in the race at the convention, those polled prefer New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He gets 32 percent support in that scenario, compared with 20 percent each for former Governors Sarah Palin of Alaska and Jeb Bush of Florida and 15 percent for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

The poll has an error margin of plus-or-minus 2.9 percentage points for the 1,124 voters questioned on the Republican race and 1.9 points for the entire sample of 2,605 voters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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