We all know that if Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich want to be the Republican presidential nominee, they have to win more states. But they also have to win by large margins, The New York Times' Nate Silver explains, because so many states award delegates proportionally. So while a little gain in Alabama is good news for them, it isn't great. Here's our guide to today's polls and which ones matter.
Findings: There's essentially a three-way tie in Alabama, with Gingrich with 30 percent of the vote, Santorum with 29 percent, and Romney with 28 percent.
Methodology: Robo-calls to 750 likely Republican voters on March 8.
Why it matters: This poll sharply contradicts one released Thursday by the Alabama Education Association that showed Romney ahead by 10 points in the state, followed by Santorum with 21.6 percent and Gingrich with 21.2 percent. Which should be good news for either of these guys' chances for overtaking Romney, right? Yes. But. It helps to look at Alabama when thinking about how Santorum could come back from Romney's big lead in delegates, given that most of the remaining states award delegates proportionally. As The New York Times' Nate Silver explains, a small win for Santorum in those cases doesn't hurt Romney enough. In Alabama, if the final tally on March 13 is 35 percent for Santorum, followed by Gingrich and Romney tied with about 30 percent, then Santorum gets 21 delegates, while the others get 13 each. But if Santorum wins with 45 percent of the vote to Gingrich's 28 percent and Romney's 19 percent, then Santorum wins 33 delegates to Romney's 1 -- much better. But Silver writes that something pretty huge would have to happen in the race to give Santorum that kind of momentum everywhere. Gingrich, who's only won two states, has even further to go than Santorum.
Caveat: Rasmussen leans right, and there haven't been many polls in Alabama.