Santorum leads Romney in latest Ohio poll

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Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum still has a small lead over rival Mitt Romney in the latest poll of likely Republican primary voters in Ohio, though the gap between the two men has shrunk since Monday.

Conducted by Quinnipiac University, the poll released Friday found Santorum leads the former Massachusetts governor 35 percent to 31 percent among likely Republican voters, compared to a poll released Monday showing Santorum with 36 percent to Romney's 29 percent.

Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said a third of Ohio Republican voters told pollsters they might change their mind before March 6, when Republicans in ten states choose who they want to take on President Obama in November.

In addition to the Buckeye state, voters in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia head to the polls on "Super Tuesday," as the early March contest has come to be known. Ohio is considered the most important of the states as it will be crucial for the Republican candidate to win Ohio in the general election seven months from now.

All told, about 437 delegates are at stake next week, nearly double the roughly 250 that have been awarded in the entire race to date. A candidate needs to win 1144 of the 2286 available delegates to capture the nomination.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich garnered 17 percent support in the Ohio poll, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul taking about 12 percent.

Santorum leads Romney 34 percent to 28 percent among men and 37 percent to 33 percent among women. Romney leads Santorum 46 percent to 26 percent among self-described moderates, though Santorum is ahead 40 percent to 27 percent among self-described conservatives and 42 percent to 25 percent among those call themselves tea partiers.

The Ohio Quinnipiac telephone poll of 517 likely Republican primary voters was conducted February 29 through March 1 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

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    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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