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Can Mitt Romney convince Arizona he is a true conservative?

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Joshua Lott/REUTERS

(Read caption) A supporter of Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney holds a campaign sign before a campaign event in Mesa, Arizona Monday.

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For Mitt Romney to head into Super Tuesday on March 6 as the GOP front-runner, he needs to notch solid wins in the two states that hold primaries before then: Arizona and Michigan, both on Feb. 28.

Already, Rick Santorum has surged ahead in polls in Michigan, suggesting that Mr. Romney's home-state advantage (he was born and raised there, and his father was a Michigan governor) won't mean much.

But what about Arizona?

The state, with a prize of 29 delegates, looks much better for Romney. It's in the West, where he tends to do better, and it has a sizeable Mormon population – about a tenth of the Republican electorate. The latest state poll, by Rasmussen, has Romney leading the field by 24 points. Mr. Santorum isn't even in second place (that spot belongs to Newt Gingrich), but is lagging in third with 13 percent.

Keep in mind, though, that the poll was taken on Feb. 1 - a week before Santorum's impressive three-state victory in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri, which gave him an enormous boost around the country.

At this point, a Romney victory in Arizona still seems highly likely, but the state will provide an interesting counterpoint to Michigan in two weeks. In particular, it will be a testing ground for whether Santorum's social-conservative message can resonate in a less traditionally religious state.


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