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In Michigan, Santorum leads in polls, Romney has spending edge

February 16, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Rick Santorum addresses the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit. He and Mitt Romney were both on the ground in Michigan.
Rick Santorum addresses the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit. He and Mitt… (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images )

A new statewide poll shows Rick Santorum has a narrow advantage over Mitt Romney among Michigan Republican primary voters. The key question is whether money will trump momentum with less than two weeks before the state's key vote.

The Detroit News survey of 500 likely voters puts Santorum ahead of Romney 34% to 30%, with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul lagging behind at 12% and 9%, respectively. Twelve percent were undecided.

A loss for Romney in Michigan, which he won in 2008 and where he claims favorite son status, would truly shake up the GOP race and potentially extend the nomination battle well beyond March.

Michigan voters are divided as far as what qualities they're looking for in a candidate. The biggest chunk -- 25% -- said they're looking for someone who can beat President Obama. Romney is seen as the best candidate on that front.

Santorum's biggest advantage is on the quality of a strong moral character, which 16% of respondents said is the most important for them. Santorum also has a double-digit advantage on the question of which candidate shares voters' positions.

Only about half of the voters surveyed said they were happy with the candidates they had to choose from.

Both Romney and Santorum were on the ground Thursday in Michigan. And perhaps more importantly, each campaign is purchasing up air time for television advertisements.

A breakdown of ad spending provided by a rival campaign shows that through Wednesday, the former Massachusetts governor had a decided advantage. His own campaign had purchased more than $1.2 million worth of ad time, and the pro-Romney "super PAC," Restore Our Future, had purchased nearly $600,000.

Santorum's campaign had spent only $42,443 in the same period, though he is on track to narrow the gap shortly. According to a Republican ad-tracking firm cited by NBC News, Santorum is buying another $438,000 worth of TV time; the Red White and Blue Fund, a pro-Santorum super PAC, is buying $650,000 worth of time.

All told, though, the Romney advantage would still be 2 to 1.

michael.memoli@latimes.com
twitter.com/mikememoli

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