Alabama poll shows Santorum ahead

The poll was taken before Super Tuesday so its value is somewhat diminished. Still, shouldn't Santorum be further ahead than this?

The statewide poll conducted by Alabama State University's Center for Leadership and Public Policy showed 22.7 percent of likely Republican voters supported Santorum, who is scheduled to make campaign appearances Thursday in Huntsville and Mobile.

Former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney trailed Santorum with 18.7 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House from neighboring Georgia, with 13.8 percent.

The telephone poll of 470 likely GOP voters showed 29.8 remained undecided and 15 percent saying they intended to support other candidates. The poll did not ask voters whether they supported Ron Paul, the Texas congressman seeking the GOP nomination.

The poll was conducted March 1, prior to the Super Tuesday vote that helped establish Romney and Santorum as leaders in the race for the nomination, with Romney holding a total of 415 delegates and Santorum with 176.

Gingrich, with 105 delegates, canceled campaign plans in Kansas this week to focus on voters in Alabama and Mississippi, which share a primary election day Tuesday.

But the poll results indicate that support for Gingrich is waning in Alabama, according to ASU political science professor Thomas Vocino.

"The numbers are just not in his favor, and the trend is working against him," Vocino said. "I can't foresee a situation where he can rebound and win in Alabama."

That's an awful lot of fence sitters for it being so late in the day. I suspect that leaners would favor Santorum by a comfortable margin, although the poll did not seek to measure them.

Regardless, if Romney finishes second, it's curtains for Gingrich whose only argument left is that he is a better conservative alternative to Romney than Santorum. And Santorum is going to have to do better than this poll shows if he wants any momentum from a victory.