By Shikha Dalmia
Public Policy Polling, the polling outfit that last week had Mitt Romney 15 points behind Rick Santorum in Michigan, one of Romney’s multiple home states, now has him behind by “only” four points. This is certainly hopeful for the Romney camp because a Michigan loss will essentially eviscerate his main claim for being the Republican nominee: electability. But a Michigan win won’t necessarily mean that Romney is more electable than Santorum (although, for the record, that I don’t give a rat’s ass about Santorum, his electability or his sweater vests). That’s because Romney’s improving prospects in the Wolverine State might have more to do with Newt Gingrich than Romney himself. Here’s what the PPP found:
Gingrich's continued presence in the race is helping Romney a lot. If he dropped, 45% of his supporters would go to Santorum, compared to only 29% for Romney and it would push Santorum's lead over Romney up to 42-33. 47% of primary voters think Gingrich should drop out while only 40% believe he should continue on, but he's certainly not showing any indication he'll leave.
Santorum's advantage over Romney seems to be a reflection of voters being more comfortable with where he is ideologically. 48% of voters think Santorum has more similar beliefs to them, compared to only 32% who pick Romney on that question. 63% of primary voters think Santorum's views are 'about right' compared to only 42% who say that for Romney. 37% believe that Romney is 'too liberal.'
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Point to note: Gingrich keeps inviting other candidates to get lost while Michigan voters want him to get lost.
Other interesting poll highlights:
-- The tightening over the last week is much more a function of Romney gaining than Santorum falling. Santorum's favorability spread of 67/23 has seen no change since our last poll, and his share of the vote has dropped only 2 points from 39% to 37%. Romney meanwhile has seen his net favorability improve 10 points from +10 (49/39) to +20 (55/35) and his vote share go from 24% to 33%.
-- Romney's bailout stance isn't hurting him. 34% of voters say they're more likely to vote for someone opposed to the bailout, while only 27% consider that opposition a negative. 35% say it doesn't make a difference to them either way.
-- Romney's still not convincing anyone that he's a Michigander- only 29% of voters consider him to be one, while 62% do not. But given that he's risen in the polls over the last week without making any progress on that front, it looks like it doesn't really matter whether or not Michigan Republicans consider him to be one of their own.
-- This is still an extremely volatile race. 36% of voters say they could change their minds in the next week. 69% of Romney's supporters are strongly committed to him, compared to only 63% of Santorum's backers. With momentum on his side and a more reliable group of supporters there are plenty of reasons to think Romney can continue this comeback and win next week.