Mitt Romney has regained the lead over the GOP field nationally and is poised for a victory in the key Super Tuesday battleground of Ohio, according to new polls.
According to a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released Monday, Romney again tops the GOP field, taking 38 percent support among likely GOP primary voters, followed by Rick Santorum at 32 percent, Newt Gingrich at 13 percent and Ron Paul at 13 percent.
It’s the first time Romney has led the WSJ-NBC poll since November, and there are signs that two of the groups he’s been unable to rally, Tea Party supporters and those who identify as “very conservative,” are beginning to coalesce around his candidacy.
Romney’s support among Tea Party supporters is at 35 percent, up from 21 percent in January, and his support among those who identify as “very conservative” has nearly doubled in the same time frame, to 32 percent.
Still, the poll shows that if Romney were the GOP nominee, he’d face a difficult path to election in November.
President Obama would defeat Romney in a head-to-head match-up, 50 percent to 44, and Romney’s favorability rating is well under water, with only 28 percent saying they have a favorable view of him versus 40 percent who have a negative opinion.
Fifty percent approved of the job President Obama is doing, according to the poll.
But before looking to November, Romney must first secure the nomination, and two polls released on Monday also show the former Massachusetts governor poised for a victory in Ohio, one of Super Tuesday’s biggest prizes.
Romney took 34 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, followed by Santorum at 31 percent. That’s still within the poll’s margin of error of 3.6 percent, but it’s a 10-point swing in favor of Romney since the previous poll on Feb. 27, when Santorum led 36 percent to 29.
Here, too, conservatives are beginning to back Romney, as Santorum only led by 2 percent with the group.
A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released on Monday also shows a race that’s too close to call in Ohio, although “late-deciding voters are breaking toward Romney,” according to the poll.
Romney leads Santorum by 1 percent, according to PPP, but holds a 40 percent to 28 percent edge among those who made up their minds in the last few days.
If Romney is unable to close the deal with sweeping victories on March 6, there is evidence that Gingrich could overtake Santorum as the conservative alternative.
Gingrich has staked his campaign on outperforming in Southern states, and he has a big lead in his home state of Georgia, according to PPP, where he leads Romney 47 percent to 24.
Gingrich has also surged in Tennessee, although he is still polling in third place there. Santorum leads with 34 percent there, followed by Romney at 29 percent and Gingrich at 27.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll was conducted from Feb. 29 to March 3 and has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
The PPP state surveys were conducted from March 3-4 and have a four-point margin of error.