Mitt Romney left. Rick Santorum Right.
By David Siders
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
While challengers rise and recede in the Republican presidential primaries, Mitt Romney’s sail remains full in California.
Rick Santorum, the most recent alternative to surge, remains six percentage points behind the former Massachusetts governor among California Republicans, according to a new Field Poll.
Newt Gingrich, who came within striking distance of Romney three months ago, has fallen nearly 20 points behind.
Though the Republican nominee is widely expected to be decided before California holds its primary election on June 5, the poll suggests a potential backstop for Romney should the race reach the Golden State.
“I find that remarkable,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo, that “in California, we haven’t seen the anti-Romney lead in any of our polls.”
Since winning the Republican primary in Missouri and caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, Santorum has overtaken Romney in national polls, and he is narrowing the margin in California, where he trailed by 20 percentage points just weeks ago.
In polling conducted early this month, Romney led Santorum 38 percent to 18 percent among California Republicans, according to the poll. But by mid-February, Santorum was climbing, Romney’s lead just 31 percent to 25 percent. Both polls carry a seven-point margin of error.
“Success breeds success,” DiCamillo said. “(Santorum’s) wins in those three states … really changed things for him.”
Yet even as Santorum rises, Romney’s support among Republican voters in California remains above 30 percent, about where it has hovered for eight months. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Gingrich, the former House speaker, were running third and fourth, with 16 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
Deborah Brightwell, 61, of Hanford said she supports Romney because he is “middle of the road.” Like Brightwell, fully two-thirds of California Republicans view Romney favorably, according to the poll.
But to more than a third of Republicans, it is not a satisfying field.
Just 10 percent of California’s registered Republicans are very satisfied with the party’s presidential candidates, according to the poll. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans are not at all satisfied or not too satisfied, while 47 percent are somewhat satisfied, according to the poll.
“I’m still looking,” said Robert Fulton, a retired police chief and city manager of Waterford. “Nobody really jumps out at me.”
The 70-year-old Republican said, “I guess Santorum comes about as close as I could gather … . I look at Romney, and he’s no conservative, that’s for sure.”
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