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Poll: Santorum Most Popular GOP Candidate, But Romney Expected to Win

Poll: Santorum Most Popular GOP Candidate, But Romney Expected to Win

A poll conducted last week among more than 1,000 Republican primary voters nationwide revealed that Rick Santorum is still the most popular GOP candidate. But most voters expect Mitt Romney to win anyway.

The poll, a joint effort between CBS News and The New York Times, was conducted by phone from March 7-11, and 34 percent of respondents said they support Santorum, while 30 percent gave their backing to Romney. However, an overwhelming 73 percent admitted that the former Massachusetts governor is most likely to pick up the Republican presidential candidate nomination.

A detailed analysis of the ongoing GOP race by Politico suggested that although many sympathize with Santorum's strong ideals and message, they feel that he is not as electable by a wide majority of voters as someone like Romney.

"Santorum's team is defying criticism of its guerrilla approach, forging ahead into the next phase of the primary race without a major adjustment in the improvisational strategy that's been driven so far by the candidate and a clique of close advisers," Politico highlighted.

"Strategists on all sides of the 2012 race now believe that time is long past and that if Santorum wants even a fighting chance at becoming the Republican nominee, he urgently needs to assemble a more expansive, professional political operation," it concluded.

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Of the two other GOP candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was favored by 13 percent of those who answered the poll, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul received 8 percent. Gingrich's determination to stay in the campaign despite his low-showing has been another reason analysts have identified as to why the evangelical vote has been split and Santorum has been unable to take full advantage of conservative support.

The former Pennsylvania senator has called upon Gingrich to suspend his campaign, but Gingrich has refused to back down so far, even though he has only won South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. Santorum, on the other hand, has won and come in a close second to Romney in a number of states, but he has made it clear that he is counting on taking in Gingrich's voters to overtake Romney and win the GOP presidential nomination.

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In the latest primaries, Santorum swept the Kansas caucuses, while Romney won the Wyoming caucuses Saturday. With 51 percent of the votes, Santorum scored an easy win in Kansas. Romney received 21 percent of the votes, and Gingrich was at 14 percent. However, Romney won seven of the 12 delegates at stake in Wyoming. Santorum won three and Ron Paul received just one.

The next upcoming primaries include Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, where Santorum is again projected to do well. 

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