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New Poll Shows Romney, Santorum Neck And Neck In Michigan

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Mitt Romney (left); Rick Santorum (credit: Getty images)

Mitt Romney (left); Rick Santorum (credit: Getty images)

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(CBS Detroit) As the top two contenders for the Republican presidential nomination continue to fight hard in battleground Michigan, a new poll suggests Mitt Romney has erased Rick Santorum’s lead.

The Michigan Information & Research Service, MIRS, released a poll Tuesday showing Romney leading Santorum 32 percent to 30 percent in the race to win Michigan’s Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary. The poll of 420 likely GOP primary voters was done Monday by Mitchell Research/Rosetta Stone and has a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points.

It shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailing the two Michigan frontrunners with 9 percent and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas next with 7 percent. However, the poll showed the potential for a great deal of change with 22 percent saying they were undecided.

Polls last week showed Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, had grabbed a lead nationally and in Michigan following a three-state sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri the week before. He spoke a few days ago to WWJ-TV’s Carol Cain about his campaign, where he addressed the question of making Mitt Romney his running mate were he to win the nomination.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who grew up in Oakland County while his father was governor of the state, had been considered a shoo-in the win Michigan a week from Tuesday before that.

Romney’s forces, in particular, seemed prepared to outspend Santorum by a great margin in order to hold Michigan, since losing it could hurt him going into Super Tuesday, March 6, when 10 states are set to vote, including neighboring Ohio. In an attempt to woo Michigan voters, Romney released ads that showed him as a child growing up here, which some criticized.

He also stopped in metro Detroit last week and this week to talk up his campaign, clarifying his position on the auto bailout for WWJ Newsradio and discussing why Detroit “breaks his heart.”

Last week, a Mitchell/Rosetta Stone poll done for MIRS showed Santorum with 9-point lead on Romney. Another poll, by Public Policy Polling, which showed Santorum ahead by 15 points last week, indicated by Sunday that Romney had closed the gap to within 4 points. Taken together, they could be indicative of Romney’s drawing close to Santorum as more voters have become engaged in the campaigning ahead of Feb. 28’s vote.

The MIRS poll showed Santorum’s lead among tea party voters cut from 15 percentage points to five, and his lead among evangelical Christians reduced from 16 percentage points to 11. And where he had led Romney by 31 percentage points among self-described very conservative voters, that was down to 15 points in the latest poll. Among all self-described Republican voters, meanwhile, Romney has gone from 10 percentage points behind to 4 points ahead of Santorum.

Santorum is leading out west, in the Grand Rapids media market, by 33 percent to 19 percent for Romney. But in the larger metro Detroit region, Romney was leading 40 percent to Santorum’s 28 percent.

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