Two polls released this week find Mitt Romney leading the pack of Republican presidential candidates heading into the Feb. 28 Arizona primary.
A We Ask America poll of likely primary voters unveiled Tuesday shows Romney with a solid lead in the Grand Canyon State, taking 37 percent of those surveyed, while Rick Santorum places second with 27 percent. Newt Gingrich takes third with 15 percent while Ron Paul trails in single digits with 8 percent. Thirteen percent of those surveyed remain undecided.
The poll shows that Romney and Santorum are not facing a gender gap in Arizona. Romneys numbers among both men and women in Arizona mirror his total support -- he garners 37 percent of both sexes. Santorum does the same thing, winning 27 percent of both sexes. While he has generally done better among male voters than with women in the race so far, Gingrich runs better with women in Arizona than he does men. He gets 16 percent of the women surveyed and 13 percent of the men polled. Paul does better among men than women, taking 10 percent of the men and 6 percent of the women.
The We Ask America poll shows Romney does best among seniors, winning 40 percent of the voters 65 and older. Santorum pulls strong among 45- to 54-year-old voters, taking 37 percent of them. Gingrich and Paul both have their best showings with voters between 18 and 24. Gingrich takes 32 percent of these voters and Paul wins 23 percent of them.
The poll of 1,155 likely Arizona Republican primary voters was taken from Feb. 19-20 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.88 percent.
Romney also leads a poll of Arizona released on Monday from Public Policy Polling, a firm with connections to prominent Democrats, but by a much closer margin. Romney takes 36 percent while Santorum is in second with 33 percent, within the margin of error. Gingrich is in third in the PPP poll with 16 percent and Paul lags with 9 percent.
Dean Debnam, the president of PPP, said the battle in Arizona could turn on whether Gingrich backers stay with the former congressional leader.
Mitt Romneys holding onto a small advantage in Arizona right now, said Debnam. The big thing to watch over the next week will be whether Newt Gingrichs supporters stick with him or jump ship to Santorum because hes a more viable candidate. If that happens, this race could get even closer.
While Romney has the support of John McCain, the Arizonan who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, it may not help the former Massachusetts governor much in the Grand Canyon State. Only 15 percent of those surveyed in the PPP poll say McCains endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate -- while 30 percent say it will make them less likely.
The PPP poll finds there are two Arizona Republicans who have won national prominence in taking on illegal immigration whose support could help in the primary -- Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The poll shows 25 percent say they are more likely to back a candidate if Brewer endorses him while 21 percent say they would be less likely. Arpaios support would do even more -- 32 percent say they would be more likely to back a candidate with his support while 24 percent say they would be less likely.
Arizona Republicans give both Santorum and Romney high marks. Sixty-one percent see Santorum in a favorable light, while 27 percent view him as unfavorable. Romney does slightly worse with 58 percent seeing him as favorable while 34 percent see him as unfavorable.
Gingrich and Paul are upside down in Arizona. Forty-three percent see Gingrich as favorable while 48 percent view him as unfavorable. Paul is seen as unfavorable by a majority of those surveyed -- 57 percent -- while 30 percent see the Texas congressman in a favorable light.
The poll of 412 likely Arizona Republican voters was taken Feb. 17-19 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.