Poll: Ohio latest Super Tuesday state to show Santorum surge

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But, as evidence of the high volatility that has propelled Santorum to the top of the polls in the later rounds of the GOP nominating contest, half of likely voters say they might change their mind before Ohio's March 6 primary. The Super Tuesday vote will award 66 delegates, providing Santorum — if he is able to maintain his lead — the opportunity to make up ground on Romney.

Santorum has seen his fortunes rise after a trio of wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado last week. National polls by both CNN and CBS released Tuesday show Santorum with a slight edge over Romney, and a Rasmussen poll released earlier in the week showed Santorum with a slight edge over Romney in the former governor's home state of Michigan.

But while Santorum's socially conservative bona fides might appeal to the Republican base — who tend to dominate primary votes — Romney can point to the Quinnipiac poll as evidence of the electability argument his campaign has forwarded. In a hypothetical match-up between President Obama and Mitt Romney, Obama edges Romney by a 46 percent to 44 percent margin among likely Ohio voters. Santorum, meanwhile, trails President Obama 47 percent to 41. Some of that gap can undoubtedly be explained by voters not yet being as familiar with Santorum, but the contrast — especially in a pivotal swing state like Ohio — could buoy Romney's argument.

Quinnipiac's survey also carried heartening news for incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who leads Republican challenger Josh Mandel 48 percent to 35. A plurality of voters approve of the job Brown is doing and say he deserves another term.