A new poll has former Senator Rick Santorum running even with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among Pennsylvania Republicans.

The statewide poll by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review/WPXI-TV surveyed 500 Republicans between Feb. 2-6 and showed Santorum was picking up momentum even before Tuesday's surprise victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

The poll, conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research, found that Santorum's support had more than doubled - to 30 percent - in the past six weeks while Romney's increased to 29 percent.

The big loser was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose support plummeted from 35 percent to just 13 percent. (Gingrich was born in south central Pennsylvania.)

However, more than half of state Republicans - 55 percent - still see Romney as having the best shot to defeat President Obama in November while Santorum was the choice of only 9 percent.

Romney led the president by 45 percent to 43 percent in a head-to-head matchup in a poll of 800 Republicans and Democrats in Pennsylvania.

James Lee, president of the polling firm, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that Santorum's burgeoning strength among Republicans, especially conservatives, was no fluke.

"Rick speaks their language. They believe he's the real deal, but they seem to draw the line when it comes to moving on to the fall," Lee said.

The pollster said Santorum's challenge moving forward was to convince mainstream voters he has the right stuff to beat Obama.

The Pennsylvania GOP primary is April 24.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.