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New polls show Romney struggling on home turf

6:12 AM, Feb 16, 2012   |    comments
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MICHIGAN - Two new polls out Wednesday show Rick Santorum with a sizable lead in Michigan's Republican presidential primary.

The MRG Michigan Poll shows Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, with 43% of the support to 33% for native son Mitt Romney, who has long been considered the front-runner in Michigan.

In the MRG poll, former House speaker Newt Gingrich came in at 11% and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had 8%.

Santorum led Romney in every part of the state, the poll indicated, though Romney was ahead in Oakland County where he was born.

This follows on the heels of a conference call earlier Wednesday in which Romney's Michigan campaign manager fell short of saying the former Massachusetts governor would win his home state's Feb. 28 GOP primary.

"We're going to have a strong showing in Michigan, we're going to do very well and we're going to win this campaign," said Bill Schuette, who is also the state's attorney general. Schuette is confident that Romney eventually will prevail in the race for the Republican nomination.

The MRG poll of 800 Republican voters was done Monday and Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Mitchell Research, a polling firm in East Lansing, Mich., also has a new survey out showing Santorum with a 9-point lead over Romney in the Feb. 28 presidential primary in Michigan.

The Mitchell poll was done for MIRS, the Michigan Information & Research Service, and shows Santorum at 34% to Romney's 25%. Less than two weeks ago, Romney was at 31%, with a 15-point lead over former Gingrich (16%), trailed by Santorum (15%) and Paul (15%).

In the new poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6-percentage points, Paul trails Santorum and Romney with 11% and Gingrich is behind them with 5% of the survey respondents.

Mitchell conducted a telephone survey of 455 likely voters in the Republican primary on Tuesday in a joint poll done with Rosetta Stone Communications of Atlanta.

"Conservatives are uniting behind Santorum," said Steven Mitchell, president of Mitchell Research. "Now we will have to see if Santorum has the financial resources to compete against Romney's big money in the state in which he was born and raised."

Other recent polls have shown Romney in trouble in Michigan. But the Romney campaign apparatus is just beginning to switch on in the state.

Romney has vastly more resources than Santorum and his campaign already is hammering at the former senator as a Washington insider.

Meanwhile, Santorum is working to paint Romney as something less than a "trusted conservative," saying his health care plan in Massachusetts had many of the hallmarks of the health-care reform law enacted by congressional Democrats.

Schuette said he expects a vigorous campaign in the state in the next two weeks, including visits from Romney, who is in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday; his wife, Ann; Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

"I think we'll see a sharpening of the contrasts" between Santorum and Romney, Schuette said.

By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

USA Today

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