DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been Campaign 2012’s main narrative so far: Will Mitt Romney or a more historically conservative candidate (Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich) win the Republican nomination for President?
Romney spent Friday at the CPAC convention trying to convince conservatives that he is one of them — despite the fact that as Massachusetts Governor he passed not only a healthcare law that required individuals to buy health insurance, but also stricter environmental regulations.
Romney’s speech, along with Santorum’s and Gingrich’s, were all praised by conservatives.
Romney even won the straw poll at the conservative convention.
But many conservatives still don’t know if they can believe Romney’s “severely conservative,” as he has claimed.
Romney won the Maine caucus as expected, but not by much over Ron Paul.
New national polls over the weekend show Santorum still surging.
A Gallup tracking poll shows Romney still ahead, but only by seven over Santorum, 34 to 27%. Gingrich has 16 and Paul 8.
But a Public Policy Polling survey shows Santorum in the lead by 15 points. He has 38%, to Romney’s 23. Gingrich has 17 and Paul has 13&.
Even in Georgia, where Gingrich served in Congress, Santorum is gaining.
He’s now in second there, nine points behind Gingrich at 35% to 26%. Romney is third with 16, and Paul has 5.
The other question this year that’s gaining more traction is the very real possibility this fight will go all the way to the national convention in Tampa, Florida this August.
This past weekend, former Alaska Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin said a brokered convention, in which no candidate gets the required 1,144 delegates, wouldn’t hurt Republicans.
A lot still has to happen to create that scenario.
The bottom line remains: will Romney seal the deal with Republicans or will Santorum capture the lead?
At this point, Gingrich appears to be fading.
But as Santorum told me during an interview last week in North Dallas, if you don’t like the way the campaign is looking, wait 2 or 3 weeks and it’ll change.
On March 6th — just three weeks away — it’ll be Super Tuesday, when ten states go to the polls.
I suspect the picture will become clearer on March 7th.