Reporting Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It appears the Rick Santorum surge is taking hold not just in the Midwest, but across the nation.
According to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, Santorum leads the GOP presidential primary field with 30 percent of the vote.
Mitt Romney is a close second at 27 percent with Ron Paul coming in third with 12 percent and Newt Gingrich a distant fourth with 10 percent.
Romney’s numbers have remained stable throughout the primary process, but Santorum has gone from being in third place to taking the lead in just over a month’s time. The former Pennsylvania Senator has gained 14 percent since the last survey.
Conservatives have started to unify behind Santorum as well. Last month, the conservative caucus was split evenly between Santorum and Gingrich.
However, in the latest poll, Santorum has nearly 40 percent of the vote compared to Gingrich’s 12 percent.
Additionally, Santorum enjoys a wide lead among those who consider themselves tea party supporters and amongst white evangelicals, who make up a large percentage of the Republican vote.
If the Santorum surge continues, it will increase pressure on Newt Gingrich to seriously consider dropping out of the race.
If the goal is to win the nomination for a conservative, either Gingrich or Santorum will have to drop out.
The problem for Santorum is his delegate count is not keeping up with his popularity surge.
If Santorum can keep the momentum going into Super Tuesday on March 6 and pick up several states, then he has a fighting chance of beating Romney.
Still, 60 percent of Republican primary voters nationwide said they could still change their minds about whom to support. Therefore, the race remains extremely fluid.