Two polls find Romney, Santorum tied in Ohio

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has pulled into a statistical dead heat with rival Rick Santorum in Ohio, two new polls find.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday shows Romney and Santorum tied with 32 percent support from likely GOP voters in Ohio, two days ahead of that state's crucial Republican primary. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich follows with 17 percent support, trailed by Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) at 6 percent.

Santorum still holds an edge in the NBC News/Marist poll, but within that survey's margin of error. That poll finds Santorum has the support of 34 percent of likely GOP voters in the state, ahead of Romney at 32 percent. NBC/Marist finds House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 15 percent support, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 13 percent.

ADVERTISEMENT
Ohio is one of 10 states voting on "Super Tuesday."

"This race could really go either way between now and Tuesday," Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson said in a report from Reuters.

"If Mitt Romney is able to close this out and win this race, that gives him a leg up in going all the way to the convention and winning the Republican nomination," he added.

"I just think it’s going to very close," said Marist College Institute for Public Opinion Director Lee Miringoff, in a statement.

The NBC/Marist poll's results though showed continuing dissatisfaction with the GOP field. Forty-six percent said they would like to see someone else run with 51 percent saying they were satisfied with the current crop of candidates.

Santorum did best amongst self-identified conservative voters, in that survey. Thirty-five percent of likely GOP voters said he was the "true conservative" in the race, followed by 21 percent who picked Gingrich, and 18 percent who picked Paul. Eleven percent picked Romney as the "true conservative." 

Romney though did best in measures of electability, with 53 percent saying he had "the best chance to beat President Obama." Eighteen percent picked Santorum.  

Voters surveyed by NBC/Marist said that electability in November was more important to them than ideology though by a margin of 57 percent to 36 percent.

Romney is still seen as the presumptive nominee by most Ohio GOP voters despite his ups and downs in national polls. Seventy percent said they expected him to be the eventual nominee, with 13 percent saying Santorum.

The polls results mirror two other surveys released Friday which also showed Romney, the former Massachusetts governor closing the gap on Santorum in Ohio.

A Quinnipiac poll showed Romney trailing Santorum 35 percent to 31 percent, but the gap falls within the margin of error. A survey from conservative polling outlet Rasmussen showed Santorum still leading, but by only 2 points, with 33 percent support to Romney's 31 percent.

Earlier polls had shown Santorum with a seven-point lead in Ohio before Romney scored a two-state primary sweep of Michigan and Arizona last Tuesday.

The victories, which helped Romney surge ahead and retake the lead in national polls, coupled with his win in the Washington states caucuses on Saturday night, give him momentum heading into Tuesday.

But Ohio's vote will still be crucial as Santorum looks for a strong showing to prove he can connect with blue-collar, swing-state voters and collect many of the state's 66 delegates.

Oklahoma, Georgia, Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia will also vote on Super Tuesday.

Santorum and Gingrich though hold the edge over Romney in many of the southern contests. A Landmark/Rosetta Stone pol Friday showed Gingrich with a double digit lead in his home state of Georgia and a survey Thursday from Middle Tennessee State University showed Santorum ahead by 21 points in Tennessee.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted from March 1 to March 3 and has a 4 point margin of error.

The NBC News/Marist poll was conducted from Feb. 29 to March 2 and has a 3.4 percent margin of error.

This story was posted at 8:14 a.m. and has been updated.