New Poll: Santorum Ahead of Romney in Michigan

When asked about polls that suggest former Senator Rick Santorum is poised to be Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the upcoming Republican presidential Michigan primary, Romney flatly says: “That won’t happen.” But the latest poll suggests former Massachusetts Governor whose father served as Michigan my have to repeat it often to be severely convincing:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has a slim lead over Mitt Romney, an indication the Michigan native son has yet to convince state voters he should be the Republican nominee for president, a Detroit News poll shows.

Santorum leads Romney 34 percent to 30.4 percent among likely Republican primary voters, but the gap is within the margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had support from 11.6 percent of respondents, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul had 8.9 percent and 12.4 percent was undecided.

Despite Romney’s win here in 2008 and the built-in advantages of name recognition and familiarity, party regulars appear to have doubts about his conservative credentials and the worth of his Michigan ties. It may cost him the dominant primary victory many expected.

Greg Rotter, an attorney and Santorum supporter from Indian River, said: “Is (Romney) saying things to get elected?”

Romney was four points behind with Santorum even though far more voters believe he’s a better leader than Santorum (38 percent to 15.8 percent) and more likely to beat President Barack Obama (42.2 percent to 18.4 percent).

The primary may come down to which electorate shows up: Will the heavily Santorum-leaning social conservatives get out in droves or will moderates, who favor Romney, comprise the majority? That could decide the state, said pollster Richard Czuba, whose firm, Glengariff Group Inc., conducted the poll.

“It all depends on who votes,” he said.

Meanwhile, all signs point to Romney having a main opponent now who can counter him in advertising buys:

As of Wednesday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his super PAC supporters were outspending Santorum and his allies 29-to-1 in Michigan this week. This buy will correct some of that imbalance.

“As we’ve seen throughout this election cycle, the Romney campaign is good at two things: spending tons of cash and tearing others down. It won’t work here,” said Stuart Roy, an adviser to the group, in a statement.

Expect fireworks…now in February..