Two polls show Romney gaining on Santorum in Ohio

Mitt Romney has posted big gains on Rick Santorum in the critical Super Tuesday contest for Ohio, according to two new polls released on Friday.

Romney has pulled to within the margin of error, according to a survey from Quinnipiac University.

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And a survey from conservative polling outlet Rasmussen shows even bigger gains for Romney in the Buckeye State.

Santorum still leads, according to Rasmussen, with 33 percent, followed by Romney at 31 percent, Newt Gingrich at 15 percent and Ron Paul at 11 percent. Santorum held an 18-point lead over Romney in the same poll two weeks ago.

In the Quinnipiac poll, Santorum took 35 percent, followed by Romney at 31 percent, Gingrich at 17 percent and Paul at 12 percent.

“At this point, the Buckeye State is too close to call and is clearly a two-man race between Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mitt Romney,” Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

“A third of the electorate say they still might change their mind. With five days until Super Tuesday, they certainly will be exposed to enough negative television ads to provide fodder for those who might want to switch — or switch off.”

The margin of error for the poll, which was conducted between Feb. 29 and March 1, is 4.3 percent, and 34 percent said they could still change their minds before next Tuesday.

Santorum had a seven-point lead in the same poll taken a day before Romney’s two-state primary sweep of Michigan and Arizona.

The two victories have swung momentum back in Romney’s favor nationally, where he’s opened up a double-digit lead over the field, according to two polls released Thursday.

Santorum was hoping to derail Romney in Michigan, but fell short after getting battered at a debate last week in Arizona over his record as a congressman. Santorum also fell off-message by straying into social issues and away from economic themes.

The former Pennsylvania senator will need a strong showing in Ohio to prove that he can connect with blue-collar workers in a way he says Romney can’t.

The other primaries contests on March 6 are in Oklahoma, Georgia, Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

Santorum will also be competing with Gingrich for votes in the deeply Southern states, where the former House Speaker has staked his campaign.

—This story was posted at 7:31 a.m. and updated at 9:20 a.m.

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