Riding a wave of momentum from his trio of victories on Tuesday Rick Santorum has opened up a wide lead in PPP's newest national poll. He's at 38% to 23% for Mitt Romney, 17% for Newt Gingrich, and 13% for Ron Paul.
Part of the reason for Santorum's surge is his own high level of popularity. 64% of voters see him favorably to only 22% with a negative one. But the other, and maybe more important, reason is that Republicans are significantly souring on both Romney and Gingrich. Romney's favorability is barely above water at 44/43, representing a 23 point net decline from our December national poll when he was +24 (55/31). Gingrich has fallen even further. A 44% plurality of GOP voters now hold a negative opinion of him to only 42% with a positive one. That's a 34 point drop from 2 months ago when he was at +32 (60/28).
Santorum is now completely dominating with several key segments of the electorate, especially the most right leaning parts of the party. With those describing themselves as 'very conservative,' he's now winning a majority of voters at 53% to 20% for Gingrich and 15% for Romney. Santorum gets a majority with Tea Party voters as well at 51% to 24% for Gingrich and 12% for Romney. And with Evangelicals he falls just short of a majority with 45% to 21% for Gingrich and 18% for Romney.
It used to be that Gingrich was leading with all these groups and Romney was staying competitive enough with them to hold the overall lead. No more- a consensus conservative candidate finally seems to be emerging and it's Santorum.
Oh please let this happen. Let the Tea Party backlash against Romney finally ignite a party civil war where Rick Santorum would lose by 20 points to President Obama. Don't think it could happen? If Gingrich drops out, the same poll finds Santorum would hit 50% to Romney's 28%. Game over. BooMan does provide some warning over this:
And, even worse, I am beginning to think that Santorum is a much stronger candidate against Obama than Romney. I think Gingrich is a stronger candidate than Romney. I just can't exaggerate how bad I think Romney is as a politician and as an alternative to the president.
It means we're going to have to work at beating him. But Santorum's ascendance assures that the misogynist, racist, Christian Dominionist class warfare platform is now the default mode of the GOP. I want to see Santorum win the nomination so that America finally reaches the point where they admit the Republicans have no redeeming qualities any more and they are broken, lost in the wilderness.
A Santorum candidacy may finally give President Obama the Congressional majorities he needs to truly change the country.
Go for it, Republicans.