PPP's newest poll on the Republican Presidential race in North Carolina essentially finds a three way tie: Newt Gingrich is at 25% with Rick Santorum at 24% and Mitt Romney at 22%. No one else is in double digits- Ron Paul at 9%, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 1% round out the field.
The North Carolina numbers back up the national trends. Gingrich's support is down 26 points from a month ago when he was at 51%. His net favorability has declined 43 points from +56 (73/17) to just +13 (48/35). Santorum meanwhile has seen a wave of momentum following his near win in Iowa, increasing his support from 3% to 24% over the last five weeks. His 62/22 favorability rating makes him the most popular of the Republican candidates in the state. Romney has momentum as well, increasing his support from 14% to 22%, perhaps reflecting a growing sense of inevitability about his nomination.
The North Carolina numbers are really indicative of the fact that Romney probably can't be stopped unless some more of the candidates drop out. If they had to choose just between Romney and Santorum, Santorum wins 51-33. That's because Gingrich voters prefer Santorum 67-27 and Perry voters do by a 59-35 margin. If Gingrich and Perry left the race Santorum would really get some momentum in states like North and South Carolina. But as long as they're splitting the anti-Romney vote three ways it puts Romney in a very good position to just keep on winning.
No one else does as well as Santorum in a head to head against Romney. Gingrich leads him only 43-42, and Perry trails Romney by a 52-35 spread. If I had to guess the most likely scenario by the time North Carolina comes around is that it will be just Romney and Paul in the race, and Romney takes that one 67-21.
Romney could be stopped- but not while the field is this crowded.
Full results here