Poll finds Santorum holds lead in Pennsylvania

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum with 36 percent support among likely Pennsylvania GOP voters. Mitt Romney comes second with 22 percent, followed by Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) at 12 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) at 8 percent.

In a head-to-head match-up with Romney, Santorum bests the former Massachusetts governor by 52 percent to 32.

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"Pennsylvania Republicans are turning to their native son, former Sen. Rick Santorum," Quinnipiac University Polling Institute assistant director Tim Malloy said in a statement.

The polls, which show Romney facing an uphill battle, add to Santorum's momentum after his Tuesday victories in Mississippi and Alabama. The wins in those Southern states gave weight to his argument that rival Gingrich should drop out of the race and allow the base to coalesce behind Santorum as the conservative alternative to Romney. 

"What we've also seen in other states is that Romney comes from behind, riding a tidal wave of negative advertising. Whether attack ads work against a native son remains to be seen," noted Malloy.

The Quinnipiac polling also shows Santorum in contention with President Obama for the key battleground state in a hypothetical general-election face-off. Santorum receives 44 percent support from likely Pennsylvania voters to 45 percent for Obama, a statistical dead heat.

In other match-ups, Obama beats Romney in the state by 46 percent to 40, and would handily top Gingrich at 50 percent to 37 percent support.

Santorum's strong showing in the state finds him performing well with GOP groups nearly across the board. Santorum beats Romney among GOP women, with 41 percent support to 18, a figure suggesting that his strong opposition to the White House's contraception mandate has not hurt him with female voters in the state.

Among Tea Party members, Santorum leads Romney 50 percent to 21 and by 22 points among self-described conservatives.

Romney wins the support of self-described moderates by 29 to 20 percent over Santorum.

Pennsylvania voters head to the polls on April 24.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted from March 7 to 12 and has a 3 percent margin of error for all voters and a four-point margin for GOP voters.