In Wisconsin’s April 3 Republican contest, the former Massachusetts governor gets support from 40 percent of likely primary voters, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a particular candidate. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gets 33 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets 11 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 8 percent. Seven percent of respondents are undecided.
The poll follows the trend we’ve been seeing in other states: Romney polls better with moderate Republicans, while Santorum polls better with Tea Partiers and evangelical Christians.
Wisconsin is really the last state that will actually matter for Santorum in April. It’s the only state he has a chance of winning (though it does seem to be dwindling) before Pennsylvania. And the demographics are stacked against him. NBC points out that Santorum has been successful in states where evangelical voters have made up a high percentage of the electorate, and this isn’t the case in Wisconsin:
So far in all the GOP contests where there has been exit polling, Romney has won in every contest where evangelical voters have accounted for less than 50 percent of the electorate. And he has lost in every contest where that number has been higher than 50 percent.
The evangelical percentage among likely Wisconsin GOP primary voters, according to the NBC/Marist poll: 41 percent.
Of course, one of the reasons why the polls missed Santorum’s surge in Alabama and Mississippi was because some of them had actually underestimated the percentage of evangelicals in the electorate by as much as 10 percent. Perhaps those blunders prompted pollsters to be more careful with their estimates in future states, but it’s still something to keep in mind.