CNN/Time Poll: South Carolina Race Tightens as Gingrich Gains Ground
A new CNN/Time Poll finds the Republican primary race in South Carolina is tightening: former Massachusetts Gov. Romney is staying about where he was while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is gaining ground:
With three days to go until the first-in-the south primary, Mitt Romney remains in the lead in the Palmetto State, but according to a new poll, his advantage over Newt Gingrich is rapidly shrinking.
A CNN/Time/ORC International poll indicates that 33% of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters say they are backing Romney, with 23% supporting Gingrich. The former Massachusetts governor’s 10 point advantage over the former House speaker is down from a 19 point lead two weeks ago. According to the survey, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is at 16%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is at 13%, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands at 6%.
Part of this poll’s drama is this: it again shows how Republicans have utterly rejected Rick Perry.
The survey was released Wednesday, on the eve of a CNN-Southern Republican presidential debate, the final showdown for the candidates before Saturday’s primary, the third contest in the primary and caucus calendar. And the poll came on the same day that Romney and his campaign appeared to step up their attacks on Gingrich.
“Gingrich appears to be the only candidate with momentum as the race in South Carolina enters the final few days,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Support for Romney and Santorum appears to be slipping, and Paul and Perry seem flat. Gingrich, however, has gained ground and cut Romney’s lead in half since early January.”
“All of Gingrich’s increased support comes among tea party movement supporters, where he’s at 31% support, up ten points from early January,” adds Holland. “That suggests that Sarah Palin’s remarks urging South Carolina voters to choose Gingrich may have a receptive audience.”
Among voters who oppose the tea party or are neutral towards it, Romney holds a commanding 30 point lead over Gingrich and the rest of the field of candidates. The survey indicates that born-again Christians are divided, with 26% supporting Romney, 23% backing Gingrich, and 20% saying they’ll vote for Santorum. Among those likely primary voters who don’t identify themselves as born-again, Romney has a large lead.
And this poll was taken before Palin’s comments. She told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that if she could vote in South Carolina she’d vote for Newt:
FOOTNOTE: It’s delicious hearing Palin talk about candidates not being vetted. It came out after the election that she was not properly vetted by John McCain’s staff.
Still, if you had to place money in Vegas you’d bet now that Romney will prevail in the end. All of this will just make his road to the nomination bumpier.