A Pew survey out Monday shows Rick Santorum edging Mitt Romney for the lead in the Republican presidential race by two percentage points, and a pair of other polls finds Santorum ahead by a comfortable margin in the upcoming Michigan primary.
In other words, the Santorum Surge looks real, and the GOP race once again has been turned on its head.
Increased support from white evangelical Christians and Republican voters who identify with the tea party conservative movement is boosting Santorum, the Pew survey found. The former Pennsylvania senator swept three states last week, and right-wing doubts about Romney have flared up again. Pew found a sharp increase in the percentage of Republican voters who say he is not a strong conservative.
Thirty-percent of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters favor Santorum while 28% favor Romney, according to Pew polling conducted Feb. 8 through 12. As recently as a month ago, Romney held a 31 percent to 14 percent advantage over Santorum among all GOP voters.
Newt Gingrich received 17 percent in the Pew poll, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul was the choice of 12 percent of those surveyed. Results are based on interviews with 552 registered Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican, and they are subject to an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Santorum holds a decided advantage among GOP voters who support the tea party, winning 42 percent of this group, to 23 percent for Romney, Pew found. Among white evangelical Christian voters, Santorum is leading Romney 41 percent to 23 percent.
Meanwhile, a survey of likely Republican primary voters in Michigan gives Santorum a whopping 15-point lead over Romney, a native of the state whose father served as governor in the 1960s.
Santorum has the support of 39 percent to 24 percent for Romney, according to the survey by Public Policy Polling. It is based on 404 likely GOP primary voters contacted from Feb. 10-12, and results are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The electorate in the Wolverine State is hardly settled in its choice: 53 percent told the pollsters they could change their minds before the Feb. 28 primary day.