Romney gets 33% to Santorum's 31%. The poll has a nearly five percent margin of error so it's essentially a dead heat. But in Central California it's not even close. Santorum trounces Romney 43% to 30%
Republican Activist and political consultant Tal Cloud believes the numbers show Romney isn't delivering a truly conservative message. "He's similar to Obama in a lot of positions and that's turning off Republican primary voters."
Fresno State Political Science Professor Tom Holyoke agrees the poll really shows Romney's weakness with conservatives. "I think Romney has some real problems on his hands and maybe after all the ups and downs of all the candidates trying to be the un Mitt Romney, conservatives may have finally found someone in Rick Santorum."
But is Santorum just the latest in a string of anti-Romney's who will quickly fall by the wayside? Cloud isn't so sure. "Rick Santorum has raised a tremendous amount of money in the last 72 hours and if that continues it could be a new ball game."
But when it comes to the presidential vote, Holyoke believes Santorum's ultra conservative stance on social issues would make him even less appealing than Romney. "He would have a much harder time appealing to the moderate center especially since a lot of people in the moderate center are less concerned about gay marriage and abortion they are thinking about the economy."
The poll shows that among California voters, Santorum, Romney, Gingrich and Paul all lose to Obama by a margin of around 60% to 30%. The numbers are roughly the same in the Central Valley.
While the poll shows those identifying themselves as moderate or liberal were overwhelming for Obama, what's surprising is that about 20% of those surveyed who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters, or very conservative said they also preferred Obama over any of the Republican candidates.
The SurveyUSA poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday and 2,400 Californians were surveyed by phone; both home phones and cell phones were called.