WASHINGTON -- New polls released over the weekend show Mitt Romney poised to win the two states, Wisconsin and Maryland, that will hold Republican presidential primaries on Tuesday. Add to those likely wins a probable Romney victory in the District of Columbia the same day, and the frontrunner stands a chance not only of sweeping the three contests but also of winning most of the 95 delegates up for grabs.
The most recent polls in Wisconsin all used automated, recorded-voice methodologies. One survey conducted March 31 to April 1 by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Romney leading Rick Santorum by seven points (43 to 36 percent), with Ron Paul (11 percent) and Newt Gingrich (8 percent) running far behind. Automated calling on April 1 by the firm WeAskAmerica shows Romney leading Santorum by eight points (39 to 31 percent), but found far larger totals for Paul (16 percent) and Gingrich (15 percent). And a third survey from Rasmussen Reports, conducted on March 29 but released over the weekend, shows Romney leading Santorum by 10 points (44 to 34 percent), with Paul and Gingrich receiving 7 percent each.
Results from the new automated polls are very similar to findings from live-interviewer surveys in Wisconsin released last week by Marquette University Law School and NBC News/Marist College, which showed Romney leading by margins of 8 and 7 percentage points, respectively.
The HuffPost Pollster Wisconsin chart, which combines results from all public polls into a single set of trend lines, currently shows Romney leading Santorum by nearly eight points (41.8 to 33.9 percent), with 12.4 percent for Paul and 9.8 percent for Gingrich.
In Maryland, another PPP poll conducted over the weekend shows Romney heading for a blowout win with a 25-point lead over Santorum (52 to 27 percent). A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted late last week also shows Romney far ahead in Maryland, although by a smaller, 17-point margin (45 to 28 percent). Both polls put Gingrich in third place (with 10 and 12 percent respectively), followed by Paul (9 and 7 percent).
The combined survey results point to a likely Romney sweep of all three Tuesday contests, including that in the District of Columbia, where Santorum failed to qualify for the ballot.
Victories in all three states will likely translate into a substantial delegate haul for Romney since Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C. allocate their delegates on what amounts to a "winner takes most" basis. All three contests will award at-large delegates to the overall winner (18 in Wisconsin, 13 in Maryland, 16 in D.C.). The two states will award another 24 delegates each chosen by congressional district to the winner of the respective district. (D.C. will also send three unbound delegates to the convention.)
Santorum can gain delegates on Tuesday by winning individual congressional districts even if he loses the statewide votes.
Both the polling and past results suggest his best chance lies in a handful of rural districts in Wisconsin. In 2008, the eventual Republican nominee, John McCain, defeated Mike Huckabee in Wisconsin by a much larger margin than Romney currently holds over Santorum in the pre-election polling. Huckabee still carried 15 mostly rural counties and two congressional districts.
The NBC/Marist College poll shows Romney with large leads in Milwaukee and the heavily suburban counties surrounding it. Those areas account for most of the voters in four of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts, leaving just two more potentially up for grabs (assuming Santorum takes the two districts that went for Huckabee four years ago).
Santorum's chances for delegates look far bleaker in Maryland. In 2008, McCain defeated Huckabee there by 55 to 29 percent -- not far from where the PPP and Rasmussen polls put Romney and Santorum today -- and in the process won all of its delegates because he carried every county and all eight congressional districts.
Given the delegate selection rules, Romney has the opportunity for more than a symbolically powerful sweep on Tuesday. He is poised to win the lion's share of the 95 delegates in the two states plus the District of Columbia.