Santorum Has Big Lead in Home State of Pennsylvania

Santorum Has Big Lead in Home State of Pennsylvania

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - March 14, 2012

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds a commanding lead over his rivals in his home state, topping Mitt Romney by 14 points, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Santorum, who racked up primary wins in Alabama and Mississippi Tuesday night, attracts 36 percent of the support from Republican voters in Pennsylvania. Romney garners 22 percent while Ron Paul receives 12 percent and Newt Gingrich gets just 8 percent. When the ballot is narrowed down to a two-man race, Santorum leads Romney by 20 points.

The poll comes on the heels of a Public Policy Polling (D) survey released Tuesday that finds Santorum leading Romney by 18 points.

The former senator holds a substantial lead among women voters in the Keystone State, taking 41 percent of the support to Romney's 18 percent, but he wins over men by just three points. Santorum leads by double digits among Tea Party supporters, conservatives and white evangelicals. Romney holds a nine-point lead among moderates in the state.

"What we've also seen in other states is that Romney comes from behind, riding a tidal wave of negative advertising," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement released with the results. "Whether attack ads work against a native son remains to be seen."

None of the presidential contenders appears to be popular in Pennsylvania. By a 39 percent to 44 percent margin, voters find Santorum unfavorable. Romney scores a negative net of 10 percent and Gingrich gets a negative net of 30 percent. Voters are split on whether they like Paul, but most don't know enough about him to make a decision.

Santorum runs neck and neck with Barack Obama in a hypothetical general election matchup: The president attracts 45 percent of the support to Santorum's 44 percent. In other matchups, Obama tops Paul by five points, Romney by six points and Gingrich by 13.

Obama's job approval numbers in the state have improved slightly since late last year: 47 percent approve of his job performance while 49 percent disapprove. In a December Quinnipiac poll, 43 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved. Voters are split on whether they have a favorable opinion of the president, 47 percent to 47 percent. Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 by 10 points.

Meanwhile, freshman Democratic Sen. Bob Casey appears to be in a comfortable spot as he seeks re-election. He leads an unnamed Republican challenger, 46 percent to 34 percent. And by an 18-point margin, voters here say he deserves to be re-elected. Several Republicans are vying to challenge him, but all face a name-recognition deficit. Casey scores a positive job performance grade: 46 percent approve while 27 percent disapprove. As the pollsters point out, he could rest easier if he could break the 50 percent job approval threshold.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,256 registered voters, including 508 Republicans, from March 7-12. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. The sampling error for Republicans is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Pennsylvania holds its presidential primary on April 24.

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

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