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Romney vs. Santorum: Down to the wire in Michigan and Arizona

Though the momentum seems to be with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum does well in some polls. But beyond next week's primaries, then “Super Tuesday” a week later, establishment Republicans worry about the outlook for taking on Barack Obama in November.

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Santorum, in fact, can take comfort from other bits of polling news.

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In 12 swing states, Santorum is more likely than Romney to beat Obama, according to a new survey by Purple Strategies, a bipartisan political consulting firm. Obama leads Romney by 4 points and Santorum by 2 points.

“These results may bring into question Mitt Romney's continued claim of electability,” writes Doug Usher, Purple Strategies managing partner, on Huffington Post. “Since September, we have tested President Obama against Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum. Of all of these candidates, Rick Santorum is the only one to outperform Romney (albeit by a small margin) against President Obama in Purple America. Additionally, among independents, Romney trails by 3 points, while Santorum leads President Obama by 2 points (44-42 percent).”

In Gallup’s national tracking poll, Santorum leads Romney 33-27 percent (with 16 percent for Newt Gingrich and 11 percent for Ron Paul).

But looking beyond Michigan and Arizona next week, then the ten elections on “Super Tuesday” a week later, establishment Republicans increasingly worry about the outlook for taking on Barack Obama in November’s general election.

In a long New York magazine piece published Saturday, John Heilemann details “a GOP that’s tearing itself apart” over ideology and direction.

Recalling the fight between Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater in 1964 and then Ronald Reagan vs. Gerald Ford in 1976 – both of which led to Democratic wins in the presidential election – Heilemann writes that “many Republicans are already looking past 2012.”

He writes:

If either Romney or Santorum gains the nomination and then falls before Obama, flubbing an election that just months ago seemed eminently winnable, it will unleash a GOP apocalypse on November 7 – followed by an epic struggle between the regulars and red-hots to refashion the party. And make no mistake: A loss is what the GOP’s political class now expects.

“Six months before this thing got going, every Republican I know was saying, ‘We’re gonna win, we’re gonna beat Obama,’ ” says former Reagan strategist Ed Rollins. “Now even those who’ve endorsed Romney say, ‘My God, what a … mess.’ ”

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