Pennsylvania primed to be next GOP battleground

There are no guarantees for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary, especially after a big Santorum's misstep. Political correspondent Jan Crawford reports on the latest details on the road to the Republican presidential nomination.
Getty Images/AP Photo
Getty Images/AP Photo

A month ago, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum had nearly a 30-point lead over rival Mitt Romney in his home state of Pennsylvania, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll.

Now, with a little less than a month to go before the Keystone state's April 24 primary, Romney appears to have all but erased Santorum's advantage.

A Franklin & Marshall survey conducted from March 20-25 shows the two candidates nearly in a dead heat in Pennsylvania, with Romney just two points behind Santorum, within the poll's margin of error.

According to the survey, Santorum leads Romney 30 percent to 28 percent - a far cry from the 45 percent to 16 percent advantage he enjoyed over Romney in their February poll.

Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich pulled in 9 percent and 6 percent support, respectively.

According to the survey, Santorum leads Romney among born-again Christians, low- and middle-income voters, and in the state's Central and Western regions. Romney did well among moderates, those with a household income of over $75,000 and those in the Philadelphia region.

Santorum's slide in the Pennsylvania poll reflects a broader trend for the candidate, whose turn as a front-runner in the race appears to be abating. Though the former Pennsylvania senator has won 11 nominating contests to date - substantially more than Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who have won 2 and 0 contests, respectively - he still trails Romney by more than 300 delegates, according to CBS News estimates, and has in recent weeks seen his national poll numbers decline. 

Next week, the Republican presidential candidates will face off in nominating contests in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Wisconsin.

A new CNN/TIME/ORC poll suggests that Romney and Santorum are nearly matched when stacked against President Obama. That poll showed Mr. Obama besting Romney 54 percent to 43 percent. The same survey showed him leading Santorum 55 percent to 42 percent.

A win for Santorum in Pennsylvania could give the candidate's campaign a crucial boost in energy and momentum ahead of key nominating contests in Texas, California and North Carolina. A loss in his home state next month, however, would present the Romney campaign with a key opportunity to blast the candidate's electability - and the chance to push Santorum out of the race for good.