Q-poll puts Romney up 3 in Ohio; Update: Romney up 7 in ARG; Update: Santorum up 1 in Rasmussen

We’ll be looking at polls most of the day in order to get a handle on what to expect from tomorrow’s Super Tuesday contests, and a new Quinnipiac poll shows a momentum swing in tomorrow’s most significant battleground.  Mitt Romney has taken a narrow lead from Rick Santorum in the final hours before the Ohio primary, which represents a ten-point shift in ten days from the Q-poll series:

The Ohio Republican presidential primary remains too close to call, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the momentum, and 34 percent of likely Republican primary voters, to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 31 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This is a 10-point shift from a February 27 Ohio survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University showing Santorum with a 36 – 29 percent lead.

In this latest survey, men split with 33 percent for Santorum and 31 percent for Romney. Women back Romney 38 – 29 percent. Self-described conservatives, a strong base of Santorum support in earlier surveys, are split with 35 percent for Santorum and 33 percent for Romney.

“To borrow from the book of Berra, Yogi that is: It’s deja vu all over again for Gov. Mitt Romney. Just as he did in Florida and Michigan, Romney has erased a sizable deficit a week before the primary to grab the momentum in the final 24 hours,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute. “A week ago, Quinnipiac had Sen. Santorum ahead by seven points, now it’s Romney by three – a 10-point swing in seven days. The margin makes the Ohio race too close to call, but Romney is the one with the wind at his back.”

This corroborates most of the polling we saw over the last few days.  Santorum’s lead had been significant two weeks ago, and now it has dissipated entirely.  The race now hinges on the differentiation between the candidates and the impulse decisions that will get made on the way to the polling booth tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the Q-poll survey doesn’t dig into those questions as other pollsters do.  The only breakdowns in the report are on the candidate choice and favorability.  The latter doesn’t provide any clues, either, since both men are nearly tied on it; Romney has a 53/36 favorability and Santorum gets a 59/26 for a slight edge.  That edge is wider among self-described conservatives (64/23 for Santorum, 53/37 for Romney), but Santorum only gets a 44/35 among moderates while Romney gets a 56/29. The only demos in this poll that could be significant for predicting the outcome might be the age categories.  Younger voters tend to turn out less, and Santorum leads among 18-49 by nine points, 34/25.  Older voters tend to turn out better, and Romney leads among 50-64YOs by eight (38/30) and seniors by twelve (40/28).

Again, with Santorum’s delegate qualification problems in Ohio, he needs a pretty decisive popular-vote win to get a majority of delegates.  The data from the polls shows that Santorum doesn’t appear to be in position to get that, and may not win the popular vote at all — which would be a blow to his credibility after the Super Tuesday contests.

Update: ARG’s new poll in Ohio taken over the weekend has Romney up by seven:

Mitt Romney leads the Ohio Republican presidential primary with 35%. Romney is followed by Rick Santorum with 28%, Newt Gingrich with 18%, and Ron Paul with 13%.

Romney leads Santorum 36% to 29% among Republicans, followed by Gingrich with 18% and Paul with 11%. Among independents, Romney leads with 33%, followed by Santorum with 25%, Paul with 20%, and Gingrich with 17%.

Santorum leads with 37% among likely Republican primary voters saying they are supporters of the Tea Party, followed by Romney with 33%, Gingrich with 17%, and Paul with 10%. Among likely primary voters saying they are not supporters of the Tea Party or are undecided about the Tea Party, Romney leads with 38%, followed by Santorum and Gingrich with 19% each, and Paul with 16%.

Romney leads Santorum 32% to 27% among men, followed by Gingrich with 21% and Paul with 17%. Romney leads Santorum 39% to 30% among women, followed by Gingrich with 14% and Paul with 8%.

ARG has a dicey record on accurately predicting outcomes.  If Romney wins Ohio by seven points, though, it will be difficult for Santorum to make the sale with donors after Super Tuesday.  The Rust Belt is supposed to be Santorum’s strength.

Update IIRasmussen has Santorum up by only one point in Ohio based on polling from yesterday:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters in Ohio shows Santorum earning 32% support to Romney’s 31%. The survey was taken Sunday night. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul run far behind, each with 13% of the vote. Three percent (3%) prefer another candidate, and six percent (6%) remain undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)  

Three days ago, it was Santorum 33%, Romney 31%, Gingrich 15% and Paul 11%. Two weeks before that, Santorum posted an 18-point lead over Romney, but the race began tightening dramatically after Romney’s wins last Tuesday in the Arizonaand Michigan primaries. The former Massachusetts governor now leads Santorum 40% to 24% among Republican primary voters nationwide.

Santorum will be hoping that Rasmussen’s polling turns out to be the more predictive of the three.

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