Rasmussen tracking poll shows Romney and Santorum within 2 points of Obama

posted at 10:30 am on February 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

For all of the talk about the damage being done from a spirited Republican primary to GOP hopes, at least one indicator shows both leading candidates making gains against Barack Obama in polling.  Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll regularly tests head-to-head general-election matchups, and both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum register at or near their strongest position:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15 (see trends).

In potential Election 2012 matchups, both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have pulled to within two points of the president. Obama leads Romney 45% to 43% and if Santorum is the Republican nominee, the president leads 46% to 44%. Matchup results are updated daily at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

Today’s results are the closest Romney has been since shortly after the Florida primary. For Santorum, only once in polling since July 2011 has he performed better in a polling matchup than today.

That’s not the only good news for both Republicans from pollsters today.  Gallup’s new national poll has very good news for Santorum, and a silver lining for Romney:

Rick Santorum now holds a 10-percentage-point lead in Gallup’s Daily tracking of national Republicans registered voters’ preferences for the 2012 GOP nomination.

In the Feb. 15-19 Gallup Daily tracking rolling average, Santorum is ahead of Romney by 36% to 26%, with Newt Gingrich at 13% and Ron Paul at 11%. This marks Santorum’s largest lead to date. Santorum had moved to within two points of Romney, 30% to 32%, by the end of last week.

Prior to Santorum’s surge, Romney led Santorum 37% to 16% in Gallup Daily tracking ending Feb. 6, the day before Santorum won primaries and caucuses in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.

The good news for Romney?  The electability argument still carries a lot of weight:

In a separate USA Today/Gallup survey conducted Feb. 16-19, all Americans were asked which of the two candidates — Romney or Santorum — they believed would have the best chance of beating Barack Obama in November. Overall, 54% of Americans named Romney and 29% chose Santorum.

Fewer Republicans are undecided on this issue, leaving 58% who say Romney has the best chance of beating Obama, while 32% choose Santorum.

However, the Rasmussen results tend to indicate that both candidates would have roughly equal standing against Obama in a general election, at least at the moment among likely voters.  The USA Today/Gallup results are based on perception of the candidacies rather than actual support in a head-to-head matchup.  It’s a measure of the Romney campaign’s success that this perception remains so strong in the minds of voters, but if Romney loses Michigan and Arizona next week to Santorum, it’s a perception that may not last for very long.  As long as it remains, though, this perception will exert a significant amount of influence on undecided voters in those states to break Romney’s way in the final days and hours before their primaries.


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