Posted Monday, March 5, 2012, at 9:33 AM
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Would you believe it? Outspending your opponents is a good way to win elections. New polls out of Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia suggest that Mitt Romney has climbed, respectively, into the lead, into contention for a win, and into contention for delegates. I'll just focus on Ohio and Tennessee, as Georgia has become solid enough for Gingrich that he isn't even bothering to stop there until Tuesday morning.
Ohio: The Quinnipiac and PPP polls taken over the last week show Romney climbing into a narrow lead. Quinnipiac, with trends:
Mitt Romney - 34% (+3)
Rick Santorum - 31% (-4)
Newt Gingrich - 15% (-2)
Ron Paul - 12% (+0)
Mitt Romney - 37% (+12)
Rick Santorum - 36% (+14)
Newt Gingrich - 15% (-11)
Ron Paul - 13% (+2)
In PPP, Romney is winning handily among late-deciders and early voters. How? According to the AP, his campaign has spent $1 million on Ohio ads, and the Restore Our Future Super PAC has spent $2.4 million.
Tennessee: We haven't seen enough polls to draw out any trends. Compare all the separate surveys, though, and you see Santorum falling from a lead in the high teens to a tie with Romney and Gingrich. That's a bit of a shock to Team Santorum. On Saturday, when I hobnobbed with his local organizers, they insisted that Romney's $1 million of ads (thanks, Restore Our Future), had no impact on their lead. But it has. A Romney source in Tennessee tells me that the campaign's internals have showed the race down to 3 points, with Santorum's lead collapsing.
This was what the Romney campaign always wanted and expected. Santorum's wins in the February caucuses were unwelcome surprises. He was able to win voters there by bailing on Nevada and Florida, where Romney was running up his scores. It was Super Tuesday that was supposed to kill the Santorum grassroots campaign, with the live-off-the-land candidate unable to campaign in every state, unable to match Romney's ad spending.