Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has surged into a statistical tie with front-runner Mitt Romney in a national poll on Monday, becoming the clear favorite of Tea Party voters and white evangelicals.
Thirty percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters favored Santorum, while 28 percent preferred Romney, the Pew Research Center poll said.
The Pew poll also showed that Romney holds leads over Santorum among non-Tea Party Republicans (34 percent to 19 percent) and moderate and liberal Republicans (34 percent to 20 percent).
Santorum swept Republican nominating contests in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado last week -- his first victories since being announced the winner of the Iowa caucuses in January -- and has since closed a wide lead Romney held over him.
In a Pew poll in January, Romney was ahead of Santorum with 31 percent to 14 percent.
Data for Monday's poll was based on telephone interviews from Feb. 8 through Sunday of 552 registered Republican and Republican-leaning voters. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Another poll over the weekend found Santorum leading Romney by 15 points, at 38 percent compared to Romney's 23 percent. The Public Policy Polling (PPP) national poll of usual Republican primary voters, released Saturday, also showed that just 17 percent were for Newt Gingrich, and 13 percent for Ron Paul.
Santorum, once considered an underdog in the race, is known for his staunchly conservative and sometimes polemical statements on abortion and gay marriage. The two men are headed for a showdown at the primary in Michigan on Feb. 28.