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Super Tuesday Polls 2012: Momentum For Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum Leads in Oklahoma, Newt Gingrich in Georgia (UPDATE)

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WASHINGTON -- A review of the final round of polls in the most closely contested Super Tuesday states finds continuing good news for Mitt Romney in Ohio, where new polls show him edging ahead of Rick Santorum in a very tight race, and in Tennessee, where polls confirm Romney has narrowed Santorum's early lead to single digits.

New polls also show Newt Gingrich maintaining a comfortable lead in his home state of Georgia, while Romney is poised to pick up most or all of the delegates in Virginia, where only he and Ron Paul qualified for the ballot.

What follows is a round-up of the most recent public polling of the Super Tuesday states where data is available.

Ohio -- The close race in Ohio has received the most attention from media pollsters, and surveys conducted over the weekend by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, the Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), Rasmussen Reports, the American Research Group and Suffolk University confirm the close margins separating Romney and Santorum found by previous polls. However, for the first time most of the new polls are showing Romney with a larger percentage of the vote than Santorum.

2012-03-05-Blumenthal-OHpolls3.png

While most of the margins on individual polls are not large enough to be considered statistically significant, most polls gave Santorum a slight advantage late last week. These include telephone surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University, NBC News/Marist College and Rasmussen Reports.

The HuffPost Pollster chart for Ohio, based on all of the public polls, shows Santorum's support declining, with a continuing upward tend in support for Mitt Romney. The most recent update, as of this writing, gives Santorum 33.4 percent, with Romney close behind with 32.2, followed by Gingrich (15.7) and Paul (11.9).

A more sensitive set of trend lines (not shown above), which tends to capture more statistical noise but also places greater weight on the most recent polls, now shows Romney leading Santorum by a margin of two and half percentage points (34.0 percent to 31.5).

(More Ohio polls may still be released on Monday, and we will update this report as that data becomes available).

Georgia -- Georgia is the home state of Newt Gingrich, and every public poll there this year has shown the former House speaker leading, usually by double digits. The five most recent telephone surveys, all conducted within the last week, show Gingrich leading Mitt Romney by margins ranging from a low of 12 percentage points (Landmark/Rosetta Stone) to a high of 26 (Insider Advantage). The two most recent polls conducted over the weekend by Insider Advantage and PPP both show Gingrich's vote total approaching 50 percent.

An online YouGov survey conducted last week based on an opt-in Internet panel sample showed Gingrich leading Romney by a closer margin (36 to 32 percent, including initially undecided voters who indicated which candidate they'd lean toward supporting). The five polls all showed Rick Santorum receiving between 16 and 27 percent of the vote, followed by Ron Paul with between 3 and 11 percent.

The HuffPost Pollster chart, based on all of the public polls, gives Gingrich a lead over Romney of just over 17 percentage points (39.7 to 22.6 percent) as of this writing, followed by Santorum (18.9 percent) and Paul (7.0 percent).

In Georgia, the more sensitive and statistically noisy trend lines (not shown) give full weight to the two most recent surveys, and as such show Gingrich leading by a larger 24-point margin (47 to 22.5 percent).

Tennessee -- Only seven public polls have been released in Tennessee over the past month. Rick Santorum held a wide lead in early February, but three telephone surveys conducted over the last five days -- by PPP, Rasmussen Reports and the American Research Group -- show Santorum holding remarkably consistent, narrow leads, ranging from 4 to 5 percentage points ahead of Romney. In those three polls, Newt Gingrich wins support between 18 and 27 percent, followed by Ron Paul at 8 to 9 percent.

2012-03-05-Blumenthal-TNPOLLS.png

PPP's analysis notes that early voters may be "Santorum's saving grace" in Tennessee. They find Santorum leading Romney 39 to 32 percent among the one in four Republicans who have already voted.

Oklahoma -- Polls have been more sparse in Oklahoma. A live-interviewer telephone poll conducted late last week by the American Research Group finds Rick Santorum holding a 11-point lead over Mitt Romney (37 to 26 percent), followed by Gingrich (22 percent) and Paul (9 percent). A YouGov Internet poll conducted earlier in the week gave Santorum a smaller margin over Romney (38 to 30 percent).

2012-03-05-Blumenthal-OKpolls.png

Virginia -- Polls have also been sparse in Virginia, mostly because only two candidates, Romney and Paul, have qualified for the Virginia ballot, but those polls that have been fielded show Romney leading by enormous margins. The two most recent include a NBC News/Marist College poll that found Romney leading by a whopping 43 percentage point margin (69 to 26 percent) and a Roanoke College poll conducted in the latter half of February that shows Romney leading 56 to 21 percent. The two new surveys are roughly consistent with polls conducted earlier in February by Quinnipiac University and the Christopher Newport University for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The new polls are very good news for Romney because he receives a comfortable majority of the vote. Virginia will award all of its 13 at-large delegates to the winner if that candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote statewide. The state also awards delegates on a winner-take-all basis in each of its 11 congressional districts (3 per district).

The NBC/Marist poll showed little regional variation in vote preferences, so Romney stands a good chance of winning all 46 of the Virginia delegates up for grabs on Tuesday.

Massachusetts -- The one and only survey to measure Republican primary preferences in Mitt Romney's current home state of Massachusetts is a YouGov Internet poll. Not surprisingly, that poll shows the former Massachusetts governor receiving nearly two-thirds of the vote (64 percent), followed by Rick Santorum (21 percent), Ron Paul (9 percent) and Newt Gingrich (6 percent).

Unlike Virginia, Massachusetts will allocate delegates on a proportional basis, so that any candidate receiving at least 15 percent of the vote will receive a share of the delegates that roughly matches his percentage of the vote.

Other States -- Super Tuesday, March 6, features four more contests: a primary election in Vermont and Republican party caucuses in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota. Unfortunately, we are aware of no public polling data that measures Republican presidential preference in any of these states. The lack of polling in the three caucus states is not surprising, given their historically very low turnouts and the extreme difficulty that low participation creates for pollsters attempting to interview likely voters.

The polling suggests that each of the top three candidates is positioned to claim at least one victory on Tuesday. But if current trends continue, Romney is poised to win the most closely watched race, in Ohio, and he stands a chance of an upset in Tennessee and is best positioned for the most important prize of all: the lion's share of convention delegates.

CORRECTIONS: Summary of the Georgia polls contained a few typing errors for the PPP survey, which were consequently represented in the graph. The errors have been corrected.

Tennessee voters' support for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul was wrongly described in the text, which has been corrected to reflect the chart.

This article has also been updated to include the new Suffolk University poll of Ohio.

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