Two new surveys show peril for Rick Santorum in his make-or-break bid to hold off national front-runner Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania's Republican primary.
One, from Rasmussen Reports, shows the former Pennsylvania senator with a slight lead in his old state -- 42 percent, compared with 38 percent for Mr. Romney, 7 percent for Texas Rep. Ron Paul and 6 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Harrisburg native.
The other poll shows Mr. Romney moving ahead for the first time in Pennsylvania. In the survey by Public Policy Polling, Mr. Romney led 42 percent to Mr. Santorum's 37 percent, with Mr. Paul at 9 percent and Mr. Gingrich at 6 percent.
The new surveys, while varying in precise numbers, are in accord on the direction of the race, with Mr. Santorum's previous advantage in the state showing significant erosion.
"The momentum in Pennsylvania is moving completely against Rick Santorum," Dean Debnam, Public Policy Polling president, said in a statement released with the new findings. "Mitt Romney has a great chance to deliver a final crushing blow to his campaign on April 24."
The firm said that beyond the trial heat numbers, the poll was not a story of Mr. Santorum losing strength so much as it was of Mr. Romney consolidating his support among the state's Republicans.
While Mr. Santorum retained a lead among his core voters, including conservatives and tea party supporters, Mr. Romney managed to reduce his deficit with those groups.
The state's Republicans held similarly positive views of the leading contenders -- Mr. Romney's favorable/unfavorable ratio was 57/35; Mr. Santorum's was 62/31 -- but by a margin of 49 percent to 24 percent, the GOP voters were much more likely to see Mr. Romney as having the better chance of defeating President Barack Obama. Still, a majority -- 52 percent -- said they did not think Mr. Santorum should drop out of the race, while 39 percent said he should withdraw.
The GOP leaders were tied among female voters in the Public Policy Polling survey, but men favored Mr. Romney, 44 percent to 35 percent.
Both surveys are automated phone polls, and both were conducted Wednesday, the day after Mr. Romney swept primary contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The Public Policy Polling survey included 403 likely Republican voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The Rasmussen poll was based on 750 responses and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Public Policy Polling, an independent but Democratic-leaning firm, was the first national firm to herald Mr. Santorum's leads in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota in early February.
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