Washington (CNN) - Going two for two in the first two contests of the primary and caucus season is paying dividends for Mitt Romney, according to a new national survey.
Besides topping the horserace for the Republican presidential nomination, a CNN/ORC International poll survey released Friday indicates that the former Massachusetts governor's favorable ratings are also on the rise, and that he also comes out on top on what's supposed to be his Achilles heel, health care reform.
"Americans love a winner and Republicans are no exception during this primary season," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Mitt Romney, with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire under his belt, has seen his favorable rating among Republicans rise by eight points."
The survey, conducted Wednesday and Thursday, after Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, indicates that 67% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP now say they hold a favorable opinion of Romney, who's making his second bid for the Republican nomination.
According to the poll, Rick Santorum has seen his favorable rating jump 19 points from November, to now stand 49%. The former senator from Pennsylvania, once an afterthought in the race for the nomination, was just eight votes shy of beating Romney in Iowa.
Forty-seven percent of Republicans say they now hold a favorable view of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, up seven points from November. The longtime congressman, who's making his third run for the White House, finished third in Iowa and a strong second in New Hampshire.
But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth in the first two contests after facing a blistering series of negative ads, saw his favorable rating plunge 12 points, to 49%.
On issues, Romney has an advantage over his GOP rivals on the economy and the budget deficit. That makes sense, as Romney touts his business and corporate world experience. But the poll indicates that Romney also has a ten point advantage over the other Republican presidential candidates when it comes to which candidate would do the best job handing health care.
That's a surprise, as Romney's rivals have criticized his 2006 signing into law Massachusetts' sweeping health care reform, which included an individual mandate for coverage. Conservatives say the law, called "Romneycare," was the inspiration for the national health care reform law, that was passed in 2010 by a Democratic controlled Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama, and is much despised by Republicans.
According to the survey, a plurality of Republicans think that Gingrich could do the best job on foreign policy. Santorum manages a tie with Romney on the issue of abortion. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, criticized by some of his rivals for allowing in-state tuition rates for some undocumented immigrants, tops the list when it comes to illegal immigration.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International, with 1,021 adult Americans, including 449 Republicans and independents who lean Republican, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.