Santorum opens wide lead over Romney in Pennsylvania poll

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gives a thumbs up during his election night party, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Lafayette, La. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Rick Santorum
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Following his surprising victories in Mississippi and Alabama, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum on Wednesday received some good news from his home state of Pennsylvania: The latest poll there shows he's established a clear lead over his GOP rival Mitt Romney.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 36 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans favor Santorum in the GOP primary, while 22 percent support Romney. Another 12 percent support Ron Paul while 8 percent back Newt Gingrich.

Most candidates would expect to have a clear advantage in their home state -- Romney and Gingrich both won their respective home states, though Romney's Michigan victory was slim. After beating Santorum by just a few points in Michigan, Romney said he won "by enough."

Santorum only started to take the lead in Pennsylvania polls last month. The last Quinnipiac survey of the state, conducted in December, showed Gingrich with a clear lead and Santorum in single digits.

Since that December poll, however, Santorum has clearly overshadowed Gingrich as the conservative choice in the primary, setting up a two-man race between Santorum and Romney.

If that dynamic persists through to the Pennsylvania primary on April 24, the former senator's prospects look even better in the state: In a head-to-head matchup against Romney, the Quinnipiac survey shows Santorum leading Romney 52 percent to 32 percent among Republican voters.

Santorum also performs well in a matchup against President Obama, statistically tying the president and, in fact, performing slightly better against Mr. Obama than Romney does. If he makes it to the general election, the poll shows that Pennsylvania voters would give Mr. Obama just a one-point edge over Santorum, 45 percent to 44 percent. Against Romney, Mr. Obama wins 46 percent to 40 percent.

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