PPP polls: Romney 14 up in Colorado, Santorum up two in Minnesota

posted at 2:00 pm on February 5, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Hot on the heels of Mitt Romney’s big win in Nevada come two more caucuses and another primary on Tuesday, in which no delegates will get directly assigned to any candidate.  However, both offer opportunities to shape the media coverage of the overall primary campaign, and for Rick Santorum, this might mean some good news.  PPP’s latest and final polls from Colorado and Minnesota give bad news to Newt Gingrich, however:

Last night’s results in Nevada were bad news for Newt Gingrich and PPP’s first day of polling in Colorado and Minnesota indicates things may only get worse for him in the coming days.

In Colorado Mitt Romney looks primed for another big Western win to match his  one in Nevada. He leads with 40% there to 26% for Rick Santorum, 18% for Gingrich, and 12% for Ron Paul.

Minnesota looks like a toss up with any of the four candidates having some shot at winning. Santorum holds a small edge there with 29% to 27% for Romney, 22% for Gingrich, and 19% for Paul.

What both states have in common is that Gingrich has fallen precipitously since our last polls in them. In Colorado Gingrich was in first place with a 19 point lead in early December. His support has declined 19 points since then and his net favorability has dropped 33 points from +41 (64/23) to only +8 (49/41). Gingrich has had a similarly large decline in Minnesota, but there it’s much more abrupt.  We polled the state only two weeks ago but in that time he’s dropped 14 points from 36% to 22%, and his favorability has 26 points from +34 (59/25) to +8 (47/39). That after glow from South Carolina has worn off real fast.

Santorum’s good news comes from Missouri more than Minnesota, where he had an eleven-point lead over Romney in a poll taken last weekend.  A lot has happened since, and Romney’s momentum from Florida and now Nevada might prove decisive.  Santorum will be spending the day in Minnesota and the evening in Colorado, but I’d expect a bigger push to win the non-binding Missouri primary.  He needs another win, even one that produces no delegate assignments, to get the media to break out of the two-man-race paradigm that has dominated the last two weeks of coverage.

Minnesota may be another surprise in the making, although it’s too close to tell and an expected low turnout will complicate the outcome.  Santorum now leads among Tea Party voters in both Colorado and Minnesota, and he beats Gingrich among “very conservative” voters in Minnesota by 16 points, 41/25.  Santorum not only leads the first choice question in MN, he also wins the second-choice question by a wider margin of five points over Gingrich and six over Romney, 25/20/19, with Ron Paul at 9%.  He has by far the best favorability rating in the poll, with 72/18 giving him a +54, compared to a +7 for Paul, +8 for Gingrich, and +11 for Romney, the onlty other candidate to get to 50% favorable in MN.  Santorum’s votes here are second-most firm at 25%, behind Romney’s at 29%.

Let’s say lightning strikes twice on Tuesday and Santorum manages to win both Minnesota and Missouri, while Romney coasts to a win in Colorado.  Besides the Maine caucuses that go on all week (and which are also non-binding), does this give Santorum an edge on the argument for being the true conservative consolidation candidate?  And conversely, if Santorum can’t win anything on Tuesday and with big Romney leads looming in Arizona and Michigan, is there an argument for Santorum’s perserverance?


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