(NEW YORK) — Bolstered by the twin engines of electability and perceived inevitability, Mitt Romney’s on a roll, advancing in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll to a 2 to 1 lead over his closest competitor in support for the Republican presidential nomination.
Coming off his eight-vote victory in Iowa and strong showing in New Hampshire, a vast 72 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now expect Romney to be their nominee — up by 32 points from mid-December. Fifty-seven percent, moreover, call him their best chance to win in November, nearly triple the September level, with a 19-point jump in the last month alone.
Given these advantages, Romney now holds 35 percent support for the nomination, with his closest competitors bunched in the teens — 17 percent for Newt Gingrich, a steady 16 percent for Ron Paul, and 13 percent for Rick Santorum, who is up 10 points since his strong second place finish in Iowa, but still far behind Romney nationally.
Romney’s previous high was 30 percent in ABC/Post polls last month and in July. His support has firmed as well as grown, with 43 percent of his backers saying they’re definitely for him, with no chance they’ll change their minds — up steadily from 28 percent in November.
While that leaves enough flexibility for the race to shift, Romney has gained ground as the consensus candidate. This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds Romney leading as second choice among leaned Republicans who currently favor others. And just 8 percent say they definitely would not back him for the nomination, putting him last on the list of unacceptable candidates. About a quarter, by contrast, rule out Paul and Gingrich alike.
Among Romney’s other strong cards, four in 10 leaned Republicans say he has the best temperament and personality for the presidency; that falls to the low teens for Gingrich and Santorum and to the single digits for Paul and Rick Perry.
Romney also leads in trust to handle four out of five issues tested — he’s numerically behind Gingrich only on “international affairs.” He’s gained eight points since December in trust to handle the deficit and leads broadly on the economy. Even on handling social issues, Romney leads Gingrich and Santorum, by 10 and 11 points, respectively.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio