Polls Show Tight Race in Ala., Romney Ahead in Miss.

Polls Show Tight Race in Ala., Romney Ahead in Miss.

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - March 9, 2012

As the presidential candidates roll into the South ahead of Tuesday's primaries, one poll shows a tight three-way race in Alabama, while another finds Mitt Romney with an eight-point lead in Mississippi.

A Rasmussen Reports survey of likely Republican primary voters in Alabama shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich barely edging his rivals with 30 percent of the support. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum attracts 29 percent and Romney clocks in at 28 percent. With that trio in a virtual tie, Texas Rep. Ron Paul falls far behind with 7 percent of the support.

The race in Alabama is wide open, however: Six percent of those polled remain undecided and 36 percent who backed a candidate say they could change their minds before they head to the polls next week.

While Gingrich holds the edge in the survey, 40 percent of GOPers say Romney would be the strongest competitor against President Obama, while 27 percent say the same about Gingrich. And most primary voters -- 55 percent -- find that to be the most attractive quality in a candidate.

The most conservative voters are split between Gingrich and Santorum, 34 percent to 34 percent, while 21 percent support Romney. The former governor of Massachusetts leads among those who identify as somewhat conservative with 34 percent of the support, while Gingrich and Santorum get 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Santorum appears to be the most well liked among the candidates: 71 percent view him favorably, while 66 percent have a positive opinion of Gingrich and 62 percent say the same about Romney. Fifty-nine percent view Paul unfavorably.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Romney attracts 35 percent of the support while Santorum and Gingrich tie at 27 percent in a Rasmussen survey. Paul picks up just 6 percent. But as in Alabama, 36 percent of Mississippi voters say they could change their minds before voting on Tuesday.

Again, most voters -- 57 percent -- say it's most important to pick a candidate who stands the best chance against Obama. Romney leads this among group, while Santorum edges his rivals among the 35 percent who put the highest value on  someone who best represents GOP values.

Romney puts up a decent fight among the most conservative voters here: 35 percent back Santorum, 31 percent support Romney and 26 percent say they're behind Gingrich. Romney wins 36 percent of the support from those who say they are somewhat conservative, while Gingrich attracts 28 percent and Santorum gets 23 percent.

Romney scored an endorsement from Mississippi's new governor, Phil Bryant, this week. According to this poll, 83 percent of primary voters approve of the job the governor is doing so far.

Voters in both states cast their ballots on Tuesday.

Rasmussen surveyed 750 likely Republican primary voters each in Mississippi and Alabama on March 8. The margin of error in both polls is plus or minus four percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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