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The latest Rasmussen national poll illustrates two key things about the Republican presidential race: Roughly 70 percent of GOP voters are at best reluctant to nominate Mitt Romney; Romney faces a group of challengers to his right who are not in a position to take him down. But the fact that Rick Santorum went from the single digits to a solid 21 percent — second place behind Romney’s 29 percent — based on his Iowa showing demonstrates the former Massachusetts governor’s underlying weakness.
Everytime someone becomes the anti-Romney, they immediately become competitive with Romney, no matter how low their previous name recognition, how lousy their poll numbers were before, or what kind of organization they have in place. The national numbers (Rasmussen still has Newt Gingrich at 16 percent) are less important than the state primary contests, however.
Santorum has moved into the double digits in New Hampshire as well, at least according to the post-Iowa Union Leader poll. But at the moment, he is only in fourth place with 10 percent of the vote, behind Ron Paul at 17 percent and Jon Huntsman at 13 percent. Gingrich is taking 9 percent. Romney is way out in front 47 percent, 30 points ahead of Paul.
The Union Leader, interestingly, quotes a Granite State conservative activist as saying, “If it wasn’t for the Union Leader’s support for Gingrich, Santorum would have a decent shot at coalescing the conservatives, but I expect Newt will be bolstered by the Union Leader.”
UPDATE: Gallup has Santorum in fourth nationally at 11 percent, behind Romney (27 percent), Gingrich (19 percent), and Paul (13 percent). Paul is at 12 percent in the Rasmussen poll.