Polls show Santorum lead narrowing in TN primary race - WSMV Channel 4

Polls show Santorum lead narrowing in TN primary race

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

With just one day to go until Super Tuesday, the race in Tennessee that once seemed decided is becoming much closer, according to new poll numbers.

Tennessee is viewed as a critical state for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, and each of the three front runners has visited the state within the past 24 hours as the latest polls show the vote could be a dead heat.

Romney appeared Sunday night in Knoxville with Gov. Bill Haslam, while Santorum hit a Memphis barbecue joint.

And Monday, Gingrich spent the day campaigning in East Tennessee.

Previous poll numbers showed a comfortable lead for Rick Santorum, but the gap appears to be getting narrower. A Rasmussen poll showed Santorum still held a 34 percent edge, but Romney was close behind at 31 percent.

Vanderbilt University political science Professor Mark Hetherington says Santorum was the anti-Romney candidate in the race to many Tennessee voters.

"I don't think that Tennessee voters had a really strong sense of who they really wanted, those preferences for Santorum were pretty thin. I think it was because he's not Romney," Hetherington said.

Hetherington says money to spend on advertising has certainly helped Romney's campaign.

"Romney has been able to come into the state and call into question things they thought they knew about Rick Santorum, the sort of notion that maybe he isn't as steadfast a conservative as he's said," Hetherington said.

And one thing that appears to be helping Gingrich's numbers could be his aggressive campaigning in Georgia. Much of western Georgia falls into Chattanooga's media market, and Hetherington says don't be surprised if Gingrich does well there.

Some state lawmakers endorsed Gingrich Monday.

"We believe he is the man for the job and has a history we can look back to," said Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.

But the co-chair of Gingrich's Tennessee campaign, State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, has jumped ship and is now throwing his support behind Rick Santorum.

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