The Washington Times Daily - - Pol­i­tics -

The sur­vey in­di­cates vot­ers still want to kick the tires a bit more, said John Zogby, the poll­ster who con­ducted the sur­vey.

“They’ve test-driven a bunch of ve­hi­cles [and] while they haven’t quite got­ten the per­fect ve­hi­cle, they’re more com­fort­able with this one than they are with any of the oth­ers. The oth­ers have been ruled out,” Mr. Zogby said.

“They’re go­ing to buy this car, but they’re just not ex­actly ready to make the down pay­ment. They will. And it has noth­ing to do with San­to­rum, Gin­grich, Paul or, frankly, as we see in this poll, any­body else.”

Vot­ers re­main ap­pre­hen­sive. In fact, the num­ber of those re­port­ing they aren’t sure about their choice of can­di­date has risen from the last Times/jz An­a­lyt­ics Poll, taken in midJan­uary, which found that just 12 per­cent weren’t sure whom they would sup­port. Now that num­ber is 21 per­cent.

Al­though he seems to have a han­dle on the race, Mr. Rom­ney’s sup­port has fallen 6.1 per­cent­age points since that poll. But so has sup­port for Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. Paul, leav­ing Mr. San­to­rum the only one to show im­prove­ment.

Even with Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. Paul still com­pet­ing, vot­ers seem to view the race as a two-man af­fair be­tween Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. San­to­rum.

Mr. Rom­ney had the best Fe­bru­ary, win­ning in Ne­vada, Maine, Michi­gan and Ari­zona. Mean­while, Mr. San­to­rum es­tab­lished him­self as the chief al­ter­na­tive, win­ning cau­cuses in Min­nesota and Colorado and a non­bind­ing pri­mary in Mis­souri.

Mr. Gin­grich hasn’t won since South Carolina’s Jan. 21 pri­mary, while Mr. Paul has yet to win a sin­gle state — though he con­tends that when the del­e­gates are se­lected from cau­cus states such as Iowa, he will out­per­form his ini­tial show­ing.

Mr. San­to­rum came close to Mr. Rom­ney in Michi­gan in part be­cause he urged Democrats to come out and vote for him. Lib­eral in­ter­est groups made the same pitch, be­liev­ing that it would fur­ther wound Mr. Rom­ney.

GOP vot­ers were di­vided on whether that should be al­lowed. About 48 per­cent said vot­ing should be lim­ited to ded­i­cated Repub­li­cans, while 44 per­cent said it should be open to Democrats and in­de­pen­dents as well.

On Tues­day, the four ma­jor can­di­dates square off in 10 states. The big­gest prizes of the day are Ge­or­gia, Ohio and Vir­ginia.

As Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. San­to­rum have traded wins, some Repub­li­can strate­gists have be­gun to con­tem­plate whether a nom­i­nee will be de­cided by the time of the con­ven­tion in Tampa, Fla., in Au­gust.

The Times poll sig­nals that there is not a lot of en­thu­si­asm for that sce­nario.

Just 28 per­cent of those sur­veyed said they would like the nom­i­na­tion go to a bro­kered con­ven­tion. About 48 per­cent said they are sat­is­fied with their choices, and 24 per­cent said they’re not sure.

The Times poll also tested a num­ber of other names that pun­dits have floated as late en­trants into the race, or as po­ten­tial con­sen­sus picks at a con­ven­tion, and found none of them tops Mr. Rom­ney.

In fact, Mrs. Palin, Mr. Bush, Mr. Christie and In­di­ana Gov. Mitch Daniels all seem to cut more from the rest of the field than from Mr. Rom­ney, who wins about a quar­ter of the vot­ers in each sce­nario.

Mr. Christie would be the strong­est of the late en­tries, gar­ner­ing 14.3 per­cent in a hy­po­thet­i­cal matchup with the cur­rent field — good for third place above Mr. Paul and Mr. Gin­grich, but still trail­ing Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. San­to­rum.

The bad news for Mr. Rom­ney is that in just about ev­ery ques­tion, he tops out at about 25 per­cent — sub­stan­tially lower than where those who went on to win pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tions were at this point.

“It’s nowhere near the mar­gin he should be at in March,” Mr. Zogby said.

But as long as Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. San­to­rum re­main in the race, Mr. Rom­ney faces split con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion, and that has led to vic­to­ries.

Ad­dress­ing the split Sun­day on NBC’S “Meet the Press” pro­gram, Mr. Gin­grich said there is room for two “con­ser­va­tive” can­di­dates.

“In a sense, he and I rep­re­sent two parts of con­ser­vatism,” the Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can said, ar­gu­ing that Mr. San­to­rum ap­peals to blue-col­lar con­ser­va­tive vot­ers but “has a harder time when he gets out­side the in­dus­trial states.”

“I’m much more so­lu­tion-ori­ented and much more will­ing to do things like have per­sonal So­cial Se­cu­rity sav­ings ac­counts for young peo­ple, I’m more will­ing to talk about the kind of so­lu­tions we need with be­ing able to pro­duce enough oil and gas,” Mr. Gin­grich said. “I think, in that sense, we have dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to how we’d rep­re­sent con­ser­vatism.”

The poll sur­veyed 500 vot­ers who said they ei­ther al­ready voted in the Repub­li­can pri­mary or were likely to do so. It was con­ducted Fri­day and Satur­day — af­ter Mr. Rom­ney’s wins in pri­maries in Ari­zona and Michi­gan, and his vic­tory in Wy­oming’s cau­cuses.

Mr. San­to­rum placed sec­ond in each of those.

Late Satur­day Mr. Rom­ney also hand­ily won Wash­ing­ton’s cau­cuses with 38 per­cent of the vote, well ahead of Mr. Paul’s 25 per­cent and Mr. San­to­rum’s 24 per­cent. Mr. Gin­grich trailed with 10 per­cent.


Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney speaks at a rally Sun­day in Knoxville, Tenn. He and Rick San­to­rum head into Su­per Tues­day tied in The Wash­ing­ton Times/jz An­a­lyt­ics’ new poll of Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers na­tion­wide.

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