The public polling had some very consistent numbers leading up to Super Tuesday. Newt Gingrich was doing well in his home state of Georgia, Rick Santorum was ahead in Tennessee, but not by much, and Ohio was going to be a nailbiter.
Overall, these patterns played out on Super Tuesday, particularly in Ohio. Just about every poll had the race tied between Mitt Romney and Santorum and with the former governor squeaking out a one point win, it doesn’t get much closer than that.
Georgia was another state where the polling was generally dead on. Granted there weren’t many polls being conducted in the Peach State and the fact that Gingrich was enjoying a commanding lead made for surveys that were not all that interesting. Still, the polls that were conducted all showed Gingrich in the low-to-mid-40s and a good 20 points up on Romney — very close to Tuesday’s end result.
Tennessee was the one state where the pre-Super Tuesday polling was off. Yes, just about every poll had Santorum winning, but only by a few points. In the end, he beat Romney by 10 percentage points. Without exit polling, it’s always tough to know what happened. But one interesting question is whether Romney can hold his level of support in states where his campaign and his allied Super PAC aren’t putting in millions of dollars to attack his opponent du jour?
If Gingrich and Santorum both decide to stay in the race for a while, it will be interesting to see if the volatility in the polling continues or if Romney’s lead in the delegate count solidifies him as the probable winner, and therefore, the numbers smooth out. The other possibility is that both stay in and with some of the states coming up that favor Gingrich and Santorum (Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi) strong finishes will likely protract the race even further.
Stefan Hankin is founder and president of Lincoln Park Strategies, a Washington D.C.-based public opinion firm. Follow him on Twitter at @LPStrategies.