New Poll: Could Rick Santorum Have Hit The Wall?

It looks possible that the Rick Santorum boomlet might be ending.

We’ve been getting daily e-mails from Suffolk University in Boston; the poli sci department there has been running daily tracking polls on the New Hampshire race. And in the latest one, Santorum is losing altitude…

After four consecutive days of gains, Rick Santorum has lost some momentum, and is now battling with Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman for third place, according to the latest two-day Suffolk University/7News tracking poll of likely voters in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary.

Mitt Romney still holds a strong lead with 39 percent, though he has dropped slightly for three consecutive days and lost another point in the latest poll. Three days ago Romney stood at 43 percent of likely GOP voters.

Romney is followed by Ron Paul at 17 percent. Newt Gingrich moved up slightly (10 percent), and is followed closely by Santorum and Jon Huntsman, tied at 9 percent. Rick Perry had 1 percent and there are still 15 percent undecided.

“Rick Santorum’s streak of four straight improving poll days has ended,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “He is still in a close battle for the bronze medal with Gingrich and Huntsman with two debates scheduled in the next 24 hours.”

Santorum came under scrutiny at a campaign stop in Concord, N.H. earlier this week when he compared gay marriage to polygamy and admitted he did not know his medical marijuana laws very well. He was jeered for those answers by a predominately student audience. Overnight, his support dropped from 6 percent to 3 percent among undeclared (Independents) and also dropped from 9 percent to 2 percent among voters ages 18-34 years.

Paul has benefitted from the Santorum comments. Among Independents ages 18-44 years, Paul is now tied with Romney at 29 percent with a whopping 29 percent undecided in that category – nearly double the statewide number of undecided remaining.

Although Santorum is giving up support from young Independents, he is strengthening his support among older voters who are registered Republicans. Santorum now has 12 percent of older women (+ 5 points overnight) and 16 percent of older registered Republicans (+ 3 points overnight).

The Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston will release results of two-day tracking polls every day leading up to the New Hampshire presidential primary on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012.

Methodology

The statewide survey includes two nights of 250 likely respondents for a two-day tracking total of 500 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary. This track was conducted Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 using live telephone interviews with landline and cell phone users. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, [email protected]. Paleologos is on site at the Manchester, N.H., media center located in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel, 700 Elm Street, Manchester through Jan. 10.

Suffolk University, located in historic downtown Boston, with an international campus in Madrid, is a comprehensive global institution distinguished by the teaching and the intellectual contributions of its faculty.  Suffolk University offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 90 areas of study.  Its mission is to provide access to excellence in higher education to students of all ages and backgrounds, with strong emphasis on diversity.

The campaign stop in Concord was a classic case of bad optics, and of course it was picked up by every media organization under the sun – the concept of the new Republican frontrunner being booed serving as too delicious a dish not to gorge on for the typical folks…

That was an unforced error by Santorum. What would have been a lot more intelligent would have been for him to say something like “it’s no secret that I’m a social conservative and I think we need to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage, for a host of different reasons. My position on that subject is readily available on my website and anywhere else you’d like to look for it. But right now I think it’s important that we focus on the fact we have a dead economy, a government going broke and a complete failure of leadership in Washington amid some foreign-policy challenges which might be larger than anything we’ve seen since the Soviet Union went away, and it would be a good idea for all of us to focus on fixing those in this election cycle.”

That would indicate that (1) Santorum has attention and depth to offer beyond his reputation as a conservative culture warrior and (2) dodge being tripped up by college kids who are probably there to stir up trouble on behalf of Ron Paul or the Democrats.

That Santorum waded right into the gay marriage fight – in New England, no less – indicates he lacks the agility a frontrunner needs to avoid getting dragged into the mud. And that episode, together with the scrutiny he’s getting on some very suspect pro-union votes and a history of pork, looks like it could be springing a leak in his campaign.

Between Huntsman, Gingrich and Santorum there may be one or two tickets out of New Hampshire. If Santorum drops into fifth there when the votes are counted Tuesday night, he might be sunk a lot faster than anyone thought regardless of his current surge in national polls.

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