Republican presidential candidates 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Republican US presidential candidate Rick Santorum is essentially tied with rival Mitt Romney in Arizona, according to an opinion poll released on Tuesday that points to another possible surprise in the topsy-turvy nominating race.
The Time/CNN poll found Romney ahead of Santorum 36 percent to 32 percent, a lead that is within the 4.5 percentage point margin of error.
Romney had led previous polls by double-digit margins, and Santorum has put little effort into winning Arizona's Feb. 28 primary.
Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich won the support of 18 percent, while Texas Representative Ron Paul was at 6 percent.
A loss in Arizona would be a devastating blow for Romney, who faces another crucial Feb. 28 test in Michigan, where his father served as governor. Opinion polls show Santorum leading narrowly there.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and private-equity executive, had been expected to win easily in Arizona before Santorum captured the momentum in the state-by-state nominating constest to face Democratic President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
Romney has a strong campaign organization in the state and the backing of much of the state party establishment, including Senator John McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee. Romney's fellow Mormons also make up a large and active voting bloc.
But Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, has pulled ahead in national polls after winning contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on Feb. 7. Arizona officials say there has been rising interest in Santorum even though he has not yet run television ads, made campaign appearances or set up a local organization.
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