Pennsylvania poll: Mitt Romney opens lead in Rick Santorum's backyard

11:43 AM, Apr 5, 2012   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- Fresh from his triple victories earlier this week, Mitt Romney has now opened a lead in Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania.

The survey released Thursday by Public Policy Polling shows Romney has a 42% to 37% lead among likely GOP primary voters -- a 17-point jump for the former Massachusetts governor in the last month. The Pennsylvania primary is April 24.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania congressman and senator, has dropped six points over the same period. The Pennsylvania poll shows Romney has made gains among evangelical voters, Tea Party supporters and voters who say they are "very conservative" -- three groups that have consistently supported Santorum.

"The momentum in Pennsylvania is moving completely against Rick Santorum," said Dean Debnam, president of PPP, a Democratic firm. "A home-state loss would be incredibly embarrassing for Santorum."

Santorum has declared the Pennsylvania primary a "must win" for his flagging presidential campaign. "The people of Pennsylvania know me," he said Wednesday, campaigning in the Keystone State. "We've got a strong base of support here and we're going to work very, very hard."

The survey of 403 likely GOP primary voters was taken Wednesday and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.

Catalina Camia, USA TODAY

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