Ohio Still Up For Grabs

CINCINNATI – In swing-state Ohio, support has been swinging in a lot of directions as the Republican presidential primary approaches.

And with a little more than two weeks left, the outcome still looks up in the air.

Polls have shown lead changes every month since last fall, and a new statewide poll indicates that about half of likely primary voters could still change their minds by March 6.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday also found Rick Santorum surging past Mitt Romney, last month’s poll leader. Before that, it was Newt Gingrich leading, before him pizza magnate Herman Cain, and before them, Romney in a tight race over Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Santorum had an apparent lead over the former Massachusetts governor, 36 percent to 29 percent, with Gingrich third with 20 percent.

Two months ago, the poll gave Gingrich a 36-18 lead over Romney.

The latest telephone survey interviewed 553 likely Republican voters from Feb. 7-12 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The stakes are high in Ohio. The state offers 66 delegates, second only to Georgia in the 10-state “Super Tuesday” voting. That means a lot of campaign resources will likely be aimed at Ohio to sway voters down the stretch.

“I assume we’re going to see a ton of negative ads the next few weeks,” said Herb Weisberg, an Ohio State University political scientist, adding that the candidates will make more swings through the state.

“I think that’s going to be important. They’re going to target the parts of the state they consider the best for each of them,” Weisberg said.

“We’ll see these polls shifting in the next few weeks,” said Mark Weaver, a veteran GOP consultant in Ohio who is supporting Romney. He says Romney’s steady pace will prevail. “It’s like the tortoise and the hare. All the other folks have been taking turns being the hare.”

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, and Romney, a native of Michigan, are headed to a showdown first in Michigan on Feb. 28.

Former House Speaker Gingrich, trying to marshal his resources for a Super Tuesday comeback, has signaled he will make a substantial effort in Ohio. He campaigned from Cincinnati to Cleveland in an earlier, four-city February swing.