Republicans divided on nominee

Published 12:05 am Friday, February 10, 2012

Alabama Republicans are divided in their support almost evenly among Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, according to a new poll from Capital Survey Research Center in Montgomery.

In a survey conducted of 421 likely GOP voters in Alabama earlier this week, 27 percent said they favored Romney; 23 percent went for Santorum and 22 percent were for Gingrich. Texas Congressman Ron Paul received 7 percent.

Local Republican Party Chair William Blocker said he wasn’t surprised with the results.

“They’re what I expected,” Blocker said. “We did similar straw poll at the district party meeting in January of about 40 people. Again, they were nearly evenly divided across the board on the three candidates. So, we saw that there and it looks to be similar across the state.”

Similar polls by the center in August and November show just how fluid Alabama Republicans have been about their preferred candidate.

In August, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was the favorite with 30 percent. He has since dropped out. And in November, Gingrich was favored by 43 percent.

“The national pattern of a ‘candidate of the month’ fits Alabama as well,” said Gerald Johnson, director of the polling center, which is affiliated with the Alabama Education Association.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, skyrocketed from 1 percent in August and November to 23 percent in February. The poll included calls to GOP voters Wednesday night, after Santorum’s three-state sweep in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota.

Gingrich, the former House Speaker from Georgia, went from 5 percent in August to 43 percent in November, but was down to 22 percent in February.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was at 24 percent in August; 14 percent in November and at 27 percent in February.

Johnson said the poll was focused on strongly Republican counties in the state, and the respondents were screened based on whether they said they intend to vote in the state’s Republican primary March 13. It has a margin of error of 4.6 percent.

And Blocker said voters should expect to see more fluctuations as the election approaches.

“The campaign is a long way from being over,” he said. “It’s way to early to say that a particular person is going to be the Republican presidential nominee. There are a lot of states to yet have primary. Still up for grabs is the bottom line.”