Santorum Surges in US, IA and NH

And now it is Rick Santorum’s turn to surge.

While the previous surges by GOP candidates took place in the national polls, Santorum’s began in Iowa and is only beginning to show up in national and New Hampshire polls. (Other states haven’t polled recently.)

But despite the differences in how much support he has, Santorum’s polls have clearly begun to turn up in national and New Hampshire polls, not just in Iowa where the caucuses focused attention on him. The differences in timing of surges is typical of candidates making a breakthrough in the primaries. The vastly different levels of information within a caucus state can drive opinion well before the national and other state polls catch up.

An interesting result, possibly with implications for next Tuesday, is that the national trend has turned up higher and sharper than the trend in New Hampshire. Given the NH primary is next Tuesday, this is not because of lack of attention by NH voters, though of course the candidates have been focused on Iowa. There has been a lot of speculation that NH conservatives are quite different from those in Iowa and that will limit Santorum’s appeal in the Granite State. That plausible speculation finds a hint of empirical support here. Given the same national news coverage, plus NH specific campaign messages, Santorum is underperforming in NH compared to his national trend. The cause of that is entirely speculative but the evidence shows he has not risen as fast in New Hampshire. Yet.

I suspect we’ll see some sharp increases as the field narrows, especially in light of Gingrich’s continuing sharp decline in New Hampshire and Huntsman continued lack of success.

And let’s not leave without putting Santorum’s national surge in perspective. While he may yet reach high levels of support, compared to the previous GOP surges this year, he still has a long way to go.

One note of warning. The national polls are currently dominated by the single Gallup tracking poll since other organizations took the last couple of weeks off. Likewise the New Hampshire data is mostly the Suffolk tracking poll. Both are quality polls but we always feel a lot better when several pollsters are contributing data rather than just a single source.