Washington, Ohio Voters Moving Toward Romney

The states voting in the next few days are supposed to be less friendly turf for Mitt Romney, but polls show he's doing not too bad. Meanwhile Newt Gingrich, who's been aiming to own the South on Super Tuesday, has a long way to climb and not much time to do it. Here's our guide to today's polls and which ones matter.

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Findings: Romney pulls ahead of Santorum in Washington state, 37 percent to 32 percent. Paul is beating Gingrich for third; they have 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively. In this pollster's previous Ohio survey, taken February 16 to February 19, Santorum was 11 points ahead of Romney, with 38 percent to his 27 percent. Pollster: Public Policy Polling Methodology: Robo-calls to 447 likely Republican caucus-goers phoned February 29 and March 1. Why it matters: Washington doesn't award delegates today, but he's not ignoring it like he did Missouri, which had a nonbonding contest, and Colorado, which was not immediately binding. Technicalities aside, Santorum swept both and revived his candidacy. "It’s worth noting that Romney is now leaving no caucus contest to chance," NBC News' First Read writes. "Pre-Colorado, we’re betting Romney’s schedule today would have been Ohio and Tennessee, leaving the caucus states to surrogates." Also worth noting, if Santorum wins, there'd be an element of karmic justice: "It's very likely that in 24 hours or so Rick Santorum will win the state Dan Savage lives in," Slate's Dave Weigel tweets. Caveat: PPP is a Democratic firm. 

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Findings: Santorum is leading Romney 35 percent to 31 percent in Ohio.  Pollster: Quinnipiac Methodology: Survey of 517 likely Republican voters from February 29 to March 1. Why it matters: Ohio is the state the press has decided test whether Romney can win over enough working-class whites to win the nomination. (This follows a series of other "crucial tests," which Romney mostly passed.) Ohio's demographics -- more working class, more Christian -- should be friendly to Santorum, The New York Times' Richard A. Oppel reports. But Santorum's lead peaked in the middle of February and has been slowly declining. His lead over Romney is now within the margin of error. Rasmussen found Santorum with a small lead, too: 33 percent to Romney's 31 percent. Caveat: A shrinking lead is not the same as losing.

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Findings: Gingrich is in third place in North Carolina with 23 percent. Santorum's in first with 31 percent, followed by Romney with 25 percent. Pollster: Public Policy Polling Methodology: Robo-calls to 411 likely Republican primary voters on February 29 and March 1. Why it matters: Gingrich's southern strategy isn't doing so well. He's now retreated to campaigning just in his home state, Georgia. "I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race," Gingrich said Thursday. But at some point, he has to win other states, too! In the time before Super Tuesday, when 10 different states will vote, Gingrich is sticking mostly to Georgia, with just a couple stops in Tennessee. (Photo via Nico Hines.) Caveat: North Carolina doesn't vote till May 8.

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