Mitt Romney continued to cement his position as the GOP frontrunner today, while also demonstrating that he could pose a serious challenge to President Obama come November.According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, Romney is leading the Republican field in the upcoming Ohio primary with 27 per cent of registered GOP voters. His closest rival, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, has 18 per cent of the vote. And the news keeps getting worse for Newt Gingrich, who back in December had the support of a commanding 36 per cent of Ohio GOP voters. Today, that number is down to 17 per cent, good for third place.
Though still stumping in South Carolina — Ohio’s primary is not until March 6 —Romney has already shored up the support of several influential Ohio Republicans over the last several days. Veteran congressman Mike Turner recently endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, while popular senator Rob Portman and potential vice presidential candidate told CNBC he would likely support Romney “pretty soon.”
Both moves can be seen as efforts by prominent Republicans to coalesce around a single candidate to gain momentum into the upcoming general elections. Already, Gingrich has suggested that if he does not win Sunday’s South Carolina primary, he will drop out of the race, and a Rick Perry withdrawal does not seem too far off as well.
Perhaps more importantly, the poll also has Romney in a statistical tie with Obama in the crucial swing state with its 18 electoral votes.
It’s uncertain how Mitt Romney’s big business background will play in the relatively blue-collar Buckeye State. Romney currently has a 36 to 34 favourable-unfavorable rating compared to the president’s 48 to 47 margin. He is, however, more popular among households with annual incomes between $30,000 to $100,000. Still, the race may come down to independent voters who are virtually split between the two candidates — 40 per cent in favour of the president and 39 per cent for Romney.