Two weeks ago, Rick Santorum shocked Mitt Romney to the core by sweeping Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. Then a few days later, Romney's victory in Maine turned out to be not much of a victory, as the state GOP botched the whole affair.
Now we are a week out from big contests in Michigan and Arizona. Not big because of number of delegates, but big because of perception and momentum.
For Romney, he's got one short week left to chip away at Santorum and regain the upper hand. For Santorum, he's got one long week to withstand the assault of Romney's Super PAC and hold on to his leads.
As of today, Santorum retains the upper hand.
- The last time Romney trailed by double digits in the Gallup tracker was 12/7-11 (when Gingrich led 33-23). Even during the post-South Carolina Gingrich boomlet in January, Gingrich only got +8 on Romney.
- Since Gallup started tracking the GOP race, Romney's average has been 28.4 percent. The Not-Romney's have averaged 42.2 percent. Today, it's Romney 26, Not-Romney's 49. That 23-point gap is the worst since before Christmas, and signals Romney's weakening position.
- Twelve days ago, Romney hit his high-water mark with 37 percent of the vote. His 26 today mark a dramatic 11-point drop in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, in the same time period, Santorum has gone up a shocking 20 points, from 16 to 36.
- No Republican has busted through the 37 percent ceiling.
Fresh polling shows that Romney's assault is having an effect in Michigan, where Santorum's lead has shrunk significantly. On the other hand, like whack-a-mole, Arizona suddenly looks less safe for Romney.
The race is volatile. If that Gallup chart tells us anything, it's that the GOP electorate really has no clue who they like, so they'll jump back and forth between the candidates hoping something eventually sticks.
A week has been an eternity in this race, and it will certainly feel that way to Santorum as he tries to run out the clock in Michigan. Except in Arizona, where the dynamics are exactly reversed.