Poll: Romney on the rise in Arizona?

According to a new poll, Romney has a substantial 16-point lead over Rick Santorum in Arizona:

According to the NBC News/Marist survey, 43% of people likely to vote in Arizona’s GOP presidential contest say they are backing Romney, with 27% supporting Santorum, 16% backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 11% behind Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

The survey was conducted Sunday and Monday and its release came hours before a GOP presidential debate hosted by CNN and the Republican Party of Arizona at the Mesa Arts Center. The showdown is the first in nearly a month and is the last time the candidates will share a stage before primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday, before Washington state holds a contest on March 3, and before 10 more states hold primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday on March 6.

While Romney has been expected to win Arizona since Florida, polls last week showed a closer race in the Grand Canyon State. According to a CNN pollster, though, the trend since Sunday has been away from Santorum and towards Romney, suggesting something Santorum said or did this weekend might have cost him support in the Southwestern state. Plus, Santorum has spent very little time in the state.

Arizona appears to be the aberration, though: Santorum is still up over Romney nationally and, as Ed reported this morning, has a whopping lead over the former Massachusetts governor in Oklahoma.

Furthermore, Romney’s “electability” argument seems to be unraveling. A Quinnipiac poll puts both Romney and Santorum within a few points of Obama in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.

Santorum seems unfazed by Romney’s recent rollout of his tax reform plan, too. In response to Romney’s plan, which is similar to Santorum’s, the former Pennsylvania senator quipped, “Welcome to the party, governor.”

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