ARG poll has Gingrich edging Romney in Alabama by three

We will have a long evening tomorrow as the returns come in from Alabama, a second pollster has reported today.  After PPP predicted a dead heat in Alabama with Mitt Romney edging Newt Gingrich by a single point, American Research Group shows Gingrich with a three-point lead — still within the margin of error:

Newt Gingrich leads the Alabama Republican presidential primary with 34%. Gingrich is followed by Mitt Romney with 31%, Rick Santorum with 24%, and Ron Paul with 6%.

Gingrich leads Romney 39% to 30% among self-identified Republicans, followed by Santorum with 23% and Paul with 3%. Among self-identified independents and Democrats, Romney leads with 33%, followed by Santorum with 28%, Gingrich with 17%, and Paul with 15%.

Gingrich leads Romney 34% to 31% among likely Republican primary voters saying they will definitely vote in the March 6 primary, followed by Santorum with 25% and Paul with 5%. Gingrich leads Romney 37% to 29% among those saying they will probably vote, followed by Santorum with 19% and Paul with 8%.

Gingrich leads with 54% among likely Republican primary voters saying they are supporters of the Tea Party, followed by Santorum with 23%, Romney with 20%, and Paul with 1%. Among likely primary voters saying they are not supporters of the Tea Party or are undecided about the Tea Party, Romney leads with 41%, followed by Santorum with 25%, Gingrich with 16%, and Paul with 10%.

There aren’t too many surprises from ARG, but the loss of traction for Santorum might be one.  He’s still in the hunt, but it looks like Gingrich is winning the battle for conservative voters in Alabama as represented by the Tea Party affiliation, at least in ARG’s sample.  That’s a big difference from the PPP poll, which showed an almost-even split among Tea Party voters in the state, with Gingrich edging Santorum 38/34.  That appears to be the most significant difference between the two polls, and it’s one worth watching if other pollsters come in with data today from Alabama.

Meanwhile, CBS takes the national temperature of Republican primary voters and finds that Santorum has a four-point lead, with Gingrich far back in third.  However, almost three-quarters of those voters expect Romney to win the nomination now, a big increase from their previous poll:

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Rick Santorum holding a very slight lead over Mitt Romney among Republican primary voters across the nation, but GOP voters increasingly expect Romney to eventually win the nomination.

In the survey conducted between March 7 and March 11, 34 percent of Republican primary voters said they support Santorum, compared to 30 percent for Romney. Santorum’s lead falls within the poll’s margin of error.

Newt Gingrich was backed by 13 percent of those surveyed – a slight increase in support from the last CBS News poll conducted a month earlier, while Ron Paul received 8 percent, a slight decrease in support. The changes in support for Gingrich and Paul also fell within the margin of error. …

In January, 55 percent of the Republican primary voters polled by CBS News said they expected Romney to clinch the nomination. That number climbed significantly in this new poll to 73 percent.

Don’t take this poll too seriously.  It’s based on a sample of only 301 registered voters who claimed they would participate in a Republican primary contest.  The MoE in this case is a rather laughable six points thanks to that small sample, and on top of that, CBS has not yet released the sample data.  It lines up generally with their February poll which had Santorum leading 30/27, so the series is interesting, even if it’s not very reliable.

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