The question tonight isn’t whether Mitt Romney captures the most delegates. That’s a given. The question is whether he’ll meet current polling predictions, which he failed to do in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
And the expectations are high this morning. Gallup shows Romney with a 16-point national lead on Rick Santorum, a sign that Romney may have an even better performance tonight than previously thought:
Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum by 16 percentage points in Feb. 29-March 4 Gallup Daily tracking of national Republican registered voters’ preferences for their party’s nomination. Romney is at 38 percent, Santorum 22 percent, Newt Gingrich 15 percent, and Ron Paul 12 percent. Santorum led Romney by 10 points as recently as Feb. 20.
Romney’s current 38 percent of the vote is the highest percentage any candidate has obtained since Gallup Daily tracking of the race began on Dec. 1, and comes in the wake of Romney’s wins in the Feb. 28 Michigan and Arizona primaries.
Other polls also indicate similar movement for Romney. In Ohio, he’s pulled into the lead in most polls in the last few days, but Santorum is still ahead in Rasmussen and Suffolk, and the margins are way too close to call.
The polls are a blessing and a curse for Romney. They suggest that the momentum is moving in his direction, which could mean he’ll collect even more than the 267 delegates that Nate Silver is projecting – a landslide victory. On the other hand, if he falls short of expectations, the narrative will once again be that Romney doesn’t have what it takes to appeal to Republican voters..