A new poll has Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in a statistical tie nationally among Republicans. However, there are some troubling numbers for Romney that suggest independent voters are abandoning him.
The Pew survey has Santorum in the lead among Republican voters over Romney by a 30-28% margin. Santorum's surge has been fueled primarily by Tea Party supporters and conservatives. Santorum wins those two groups 42-23% and 36-25% respectively over Romney. Romney leads Santorum among independent voters 34-20%.
Here's a little bad news for Romney. Among independent voters, Romney's support nationally has dropped 8 points since last November. He trails Barack Obama in a hypothetical matchup among that group 52-44%. Last November Obama was ahead by just two points 49-47%.
The reason Romney is falling among independents is they are beginning to question his qualifications for the job.
Over the course of the campaign, Romney’s image among independent voters has suffered substantially. Most notably, the number who believe he is honest and trustworthy has fallen from 53% to 41%, while the number who say he is not has risen from 32% to 45%.
And even on his qualifications for the office – Romney’s strong suit – he has lost ground among independents. In November, a 58% majority of independents said Romney was well-qualified to be president, while just 31% said he was not. Today, 48% say he is well qualified, while 41% say he is not.
Despite these problems, Romney runs slightly better against Barack Obama among independents than either of the other leading GOP candidates. Independent voters favor Barack Obama over Rick Santorum by a 54% to 40% margin, and favor Obama over Gingrich by a wide 58% to 34% margin.