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Santorum leads Romney in new national poll

Rick Santorum, and his wife Karen, made a campaign stop in Ocean Springs, Miss., Monday.

Eric Gay/AP

Rick Santorum, and his wife Karen, made a campaign stop in Ocean Springs, Miss., Monday.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum edging ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, even as Republicans still believe Romney is most likely to win the Republican presidential nomination.

The national poll of Republican primary voters found Santorum with 34 percent support, followed by Romney at 30 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 13 percent, and Texas Representative Ron Paul with 8 percent. Santorum’s lead is within the poll’s six-point margin of error.

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However, a full 73 percent of Republican primary voters still expect Romney to win the nomination, compared to just 10 percent for Santorum.

The poll comes as the candidates face a lengthy nominating fight. While Santorum is gaining in popularity among conservatives, Romney is ahead in the delegate count.

Despite the drawn-out Republican battle, a new Washington Post-ABC poll has good news for whichever Republican ultimately wins the nomination.

That poll finds both Romney and Santorum within striking distance of President Obama in a general election matchup. The poll puts Romney ahead of Obama, 49 to 47 percent, and Obama ahead of Santorum, 49 to 46 percent. In several polls last month, Obama was ahead of Romney. Santorum had never come this close to the Democratic president in hypothetical matchups. The shift comes as Obama is seeing his disapproval ratings rise, particularly relating to the way he is handling rising gas prices.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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