San­to­rum, Rom­ney run close in Ohio’s pri­mary

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics -

Rick San­to­rum was draw­ing strong sup­port Tues­day from the most con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in Ohio’s Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, ac­cord­ing to early re­sults of an exit poll of vot­ers. Yet de­spite tar­get­ing the state’s bluecol­lar vot­ers, they were giv­ing him only a slen­der lead over ri­val Mitt Rom­ney, the sur­vey was show­ing.

Ohio was the most closely watched among the 10 states hold­ing Su­per Tues­day pres­i­den­tial con­tests. With many viewing the state as one of Mr. San­to­rum’s best chances of slow­ing Mr. Rom­ney’s march to­ward the GOP nom­i­na­tion, the two men were draw­ing strength from dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal wings of the party.

Mr. San­to­rum, the for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia se­na­tor, was do­ing best among Ohio Repub­li­cans con­sid­er­ing them­selves very con­ser­va­tive, es­pe­cially on so­cial is­sues like gay mar­riage and abor­tion. He was also do­ing well with born-again and evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers and with peo­ple say­ing it was very im­por­tant that they share re­li­gious be­liefs with their cho­sen can­di­date.

Mr. San­to­rum had more than a 2to-1 lead over Mr. Rom­ney among the state’s vot­ers who say a can­di­date’s re­li­gious be­liefs were a big fac­tor in their vote.

But while he spent much of his cam­paign seek­ing to ce­ment bonds with work­ing-class vot­ers by cit­ing his up­bring­ing in Penn­syl­va­nia coal coun­try and stress­ing U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing, he had only a tiny lead over Mr. Rom­ney among peo­ple with­out col­lege de­grees — a com­mon mea­sure­ment for the blue-col­lar vote.

Mr. Rom­ney, the one-time Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor, was do­ing strongly with less-con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in Ohio. He was also cap­tur­ing a ma­jor­ity of those say­ing they want a can­di­date who can de­feat Pres­i­dent Obama this fall, and was lead­ing among vot­ers say­ing their most im­por­tant is­sue is the econ­omy.

In two South­ern states where Mr. San­to­rum was also hop­ing for strong per­for­mances, he was be­ing buoyed by vot­ers who said their choices were in­flu­enced by re­li­gion, exit polls showed.

In Ok­la­homa, Mr. San­to­rum built a 2-to-1 lead among those vot­ers over both Mr. Rom­ney and Newt Gin­grich, the for­mer House speaker who is strug­gling to keep his can­di­dacy afloat. His lead over those two men among peo­ple in Ten­nessee look­ing for a re­li­gious match with their can­di­date was nearly as large.

Exit polls were con­ducted in seven of the 10 states vot­ing Tues­day, sam­pling groups of GOP vot­ers rang­ing from the most mod­er­ate in Ver­mont and Mas­sachusetts to the most con­ser­va­tive and re­li­gious in Ok­la­homa and Ten­nessee.

The Ohio sur­vey was con­ducted for the As­so­ci­ated Press and the tele­vi­sion net­works by Edi­son Re­search as vot­ers left 40 se­lected polling places in the state. The Ohio poll in­volved in­ter­views with 2,702 vot­ers and has a mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror of plus or mi­nus 4 per­cent­age points.

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