Mitt Romney has opened up a double-digit lead nationally over the rest of the GOP field, according to two polls released on Thursday.

Romney took 40 percent of the support in a survey from conservative polling outlet Rasmussen, followed by Rick Santorum at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 16 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent.


That’s Romney’s biggest lead to date, according to Rasmussen, and the highest percentage any candidate has received so far. The previous high had been Santorum two weeks ago, when he led Romney 39 percent to 27.

The Rasmussen poll was conducted on Feb. 29, and is the first national poll to fully reflect voter sentiment following Romney’s two-state primary sweep of Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday night.

Romney has opened up an 11-point national lead in the latest Gallup five-day rolling average of polls.

Romney is at 35 percent in that poll, which spans Feb. 25 to Feb. 29. Santorum is in second place at 24 percent, followed by Gingrich at 15 percent, and Paul at 11 percent.

The situation didn’t look so bright for Romney as recently as a week ago, as Santorum shot to the top of the pack after a surprising three-state sweep in the Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri caucuses.

 On Feb. 20, Santorum led Romney in the Gallup national poll 36 percent to 26, and held a sizable lead in Michigan as well.

The two have been moving in opposite directions since then. 

Santorum entered Tuesday’s primaries in Arizona and Michigan on the decline after getting hammered by Romney and Paul over his congressional record during a debate last week in Arizona, and then fell off-message by straying too deeply into social issues, where some of his views fall outside the mainstream.

Romney has led the Gallup national poll three times previously, only to be knocked off, twice by Gingrich and once by Santorum.

None of the candidates has been able to surpass the 37 percent mark nationally. Gingrich and Romney have each been there twice, while Santorum topped out last week at 36 percent.