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Where is the Race?

The recent polling on the state of the GOP Primary is either bad news or catastrophic news for Mitt Romney. According to PPP, this thing is already almost over for Romney, as PPP shows Santorum up by 15 nationally and 15 in Michigan. The latter is probably equally bad for Romney; if he loses by 15 points in what is essentially a second home state for him, he might not recover.

There are signs, however, that the race is considerably more complicated. Four other polls have been conducted since last Tuesday’s hat trick for Santorum. CNN/Opinion Research shows Santorum up 2, Gallup shows Romney up 2, CBS News/NY Times has Santorum up 3, and Pew has Santorum up 2. In other words, PPP is outside the margin of error for BOTH Santorum’s level of support and Romney’s level of support. Likewise in Michigan, Rasmussen shows Santorum up by 3 – reflecting that PPP  is within the margin of error (barely) for Santorum’s support but drastically undersampling Romney’s support.

In a normal set of circumstances this evidence would lead inexorably to the conclusion that PPP had a bad set of polling, and their results should be discarded. However, not so fast. In last week’s contests in Colorado and Minnesota, PPP was the only polling company to sample either state and drastically undersampled Santorum in both. It is at least possible that PPP is on to something here that the rest of the pollsters are missing, and things could be much worse for Romney right now than they would otherwise appear.

Is there another twist left in this race? The nearly interminable series of debates is almost over and there are few obvious opportunities in the next couple weeks for Santorum to self-destruct. The chorus of well-respected Romney supporters may have already burned up their chance to influence the race by engaging in scorched earth against Gingrich and arguing that he represented certain doom for the GOP; it will be hard to make the same pitch twice. Romney may have just two weeks to turn this thing around before the race is cast in stone against him.

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