Ohio Polls Continue To Be Close

With only two days of campaigning left, the race in Ohio, which is now widely seen as the biggest prize of all the states voting on Super Tuesday, the race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum is tightening up even more than before.

First we have a new NBC News/Marist poll that shows Santorum and Romney within the margin of error:

Two days until Super Tuesday and the pivotal Ohio Republican presidential primary, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are running neck and neck in the Buckeye State, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll conducted Feb. 29 – March 2.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, gets the support of 34 percent of likely GOP primary voters, and Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, gets 32 percent.

They’re followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 15 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 13 percent.

“I just think it’s going to very close,” Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, says of the Santorum-Romney race in the state.

That contest in Ohio – one of 11 on Super Tuesday – is significant for both Romney and Santorum. A Romney win, following his victories last week in Michigan and Arizona, would cement his front-runner status and keep him on his path (no matter how rocky it’s been) toward capturing the GOP presidential nomination.

But a Santorum win would signal that his close second-place finish in Romney’s native state of Michigan wasn’t a fluke, and it would likely ensure that this Republican nomination battle remains competitive — perhaps through April and maybe even June.

In Ohio, a majority of likely GOP primary voters view Romney as the Republican candidate with the best chance of defeating President Obama in November. And a plurality sees Santorum as the true conservative in the field and as the candidate who best understands their problems.

What’s more, Santorum performs better with the most conservative voters (Tea Party supporters, evangelical Christians, those describing themselves as “very conservative”), while Romney does better with more moderate voters and those who aren’t Tea Party supporters.

Yet by a 57 to 36 percent margin, these likely GOP primary voters prefer electability over ideology.

If Santorum holds an advantage in Ohio, it’s that Romney isn’t running up a large lead with early or absentee voters, like he did in Arizona and Michigan. Among the 11 percent who have voted early in the Buckeye State, according to the poll, Romney leads by four points, 39 to 35 percent.

Also out today is a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Romney and Santorum tied in the Buckeye State:

(Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has surged into a dead heat with Rick Santorum in the Ohio primary, setting up a cliffhanger race on Tuesday, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.

The former Massachusetts governor and former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania are tied with 32 percent support from likely voters in the Ohio Republican primary, the most important of the 10 state nominating contests on “Super Tuesday” this week.


The poll showed Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, with 17 percent support, and Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, with 6 percent support.

Asked whom they would back in a two-man race, 44 percent of respondents in the online survey said they would support Romney, while 43 percent said they would support Santorum.

The poll showed voters were responding to the two candidates for different reasons.

Among those who went with Romney, 44 percent said they backed him because they believed he had a better chance at beating Obama in November, and 37 percent said their main reason for choosing him was his ability to improve the still-tepid economy.

Santorum, a strict conservative on social issues such as abortion and gay rights, attracted voters who were interested in his principles. Of the respondents who supported him, 56 percent said they did so because he shared their values and beliefs.

At this point, the contest is likely to end up coming down to voter turnout. This is something that Romney, with his superior campaign organization, would seem to have an advantage in but it’s worth remembering that Santorum’s supporters tend to come from voter blocs that are pretty reliable about getting to the polls so that Romney advantage may not be as big as one would expect. In any case, I think Tuesday is likely to be a long night in the Buckeye State.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    I’m especially struck by the Obama margin in Ohio. It’s only registereds not likelies but if those numbers hold up you can call the election. There’s no way for the GOP to do it without Ohio.

  2. @michael reynolds:

    I would be skeptical of the Marist head-to-head’s. Their D/R/I sample breakdown was 38/26/35. In the 2008 General Election Exit poll for Ohio, the D/R/I breakdown was 39/31/30

  3. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? Why is anyone investing anytime looking at the details of who the Republicans are going to choose to lose in a rout to President Obama.

    I wonder in 2016 when there will be competitive rates in the Democratic primaries if the media will bother to spend money covering the irrelevant Republican primary season.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    I continue to be surprised that Newt holds in the double digits. I would have expected him to be at less than 5%