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Mitt Romney edges Obama in poll on eve of Alabama, Mississippi primaries

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich face a tight race in Alabama and Mississippi. But Mitt Romney beats Obama in a 2012 presidential race, says a new national poll.

By Steven R. HurstAssociated Press / March 12, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Miss., last Friday. Voters in Mississippi and Alabama have their the GOP primary Tuesday.

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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Washington

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, running third in the race to challenge President Barack Obama, is counting on primaries in the overwhelmingly conservative states of Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday to keep alive his already slim chance of winning the nomination.

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But polls are showing a tight three-way contest in both deep South states, where front-running Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is posting a surprisingly strong showing as is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

One national poll shows Mitt Romney beating President Barack Obama in head-to-head matchup. For the third consecutive day, the Rasmussen Daily Presidential poll showed "Romney leads President Obama by five points in a hypothetical 2012 matchup. It is still, however, too early to tell if these results reflect a lasting change in the race or are merely statistical noise. Sunday's numbers show Romney at 48 percent, Obama at 43 percent. That matches the largest lead Romney has ever enjoyed over the president.

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Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, needs victories in both states to meet his goal of resurrecting a candidacy that surpassed Romney for a few brief weeks earlier this year when he pulled an upset victory in South Carolina. More recently, Gingrich also won Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for two decades.

A strong showing for Santorum on Tuesday would, however, allow him to finally establish himself as the main challenger to Romney.

Santorum has nudged Gingrich to step aside, arguing that a head-to-head contest between himself and Romney should "occur sooner rather than later." Gingrich scoffed at the suggestion.

Both Santorum and Gingrich are attacking the more centrist Romney from the far right of the political spectrum and have found significant support from the conservative Republican base.

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