Last week it looked possible that Rick Santorum would keep on winning in February with a big lead in Michigan and a possible lead change in Arizona.
New polling this week though suggests Mitt Romney’s back, and could regain control of the race.
What I find interesting, and what I called ahead of time on the Twitters, was that Rick Santorum’s successes had come in caucuses. Iowa, [Minnesota], Colorado, and Missouri were all his wins, and they all held caucuses. Santorum had yet to prove he could drive votes in a primary, which operates much more like a traditional vote.
Further, Mitt Romney has shown the ability to bounce back before. When Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina, he looked good in Florida. At that point, Mitt Romney’s campaign stepped up, and found a way to win. It’s not surprising that after the caucuses, Romney would push hard and win the next primaries.
Of course, surprises and expectations are fine enough to speculate about, but it’s better to have actual measurements. We’ll start with Arizona. The last three polls, including We Ask America and its 1155 LVs, MoE 2.9, don’t show Santorum managing to take a lead. The polls have a narrow 4 point cluster for Romney (36-39) and a 7 point spread for Santorum (27-33), with no overlap. If we take the median as a quick approximation, that’s Romney 37.5, Santorum 30. A 7.5 point lead is far down from what Romney was previously seeing in Arizona, but it’s also far from the lead Santorum was hoping to get.
We Ask America also polled Michigan (1025 LVs, MoE 3.1), along with Mitchell Research and Communications and Rosetta Stone Communications (420 LVs, no mention of mobile handling, MoE 4.7). We Ask America found a flat 29-29 tie in the state Romney won last time, while Mitchell and Rosetta Stone showed a 32-30 lead for Romney. Very close, but far from the leads as high as double figures we’ve been seeing for Santorum there.