Several polls released during the past few days show that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is drawing close — or even surpassing — front-runner Mitt Romney in South Carolina, where the primary election is Saturday. Politico
offered the latest evidence Thursday.
A Politico poll of likely voters shows former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in the lead with 37 percent support and former House Speaker Gingrich in second place with 30 percent. That margin isn’t far outside of the poll’s 4.1 percentage point (plus/minus) margin of error.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul placed a distant third with 11 percent support, followed by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 10 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 4 percent. The poll took place Tuesday and Wednesday, but Perry dropped out today and endorsed Gingrich. So much of that 4 percent probably will land in the Gingrich column.
“You really have a two-man race, with Paul and Santorum battling back and forth for No. 3 and 4,” Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster whose firm, the Tarrance Group, told Politico.
Two elements of the poll are even more bullish for Gingrich. When respondents were asked to choose the candidate they will vote for without being given a list of names to choose from, Romney’s lead over Gingrich shrank to 31 percent to 29 percent. Among voters who said they “definitely” will support their candidate of choice, it’s almost a dead heat — 23 percent for Romney and 22 percent for Gingrich.
Not surprisingly, the former House speaker has benefited from his sterling debate performances. Among those who said they’ve watched all or nearly all of the 16 debates thus far, support for Gingrich far exceeds that for Romney: 48 percent to 22 percent.
Romney leads among the voters most likely to make it to the polls: the elderly and college educated. Among respondents aged 64 or older, Romney leads Gingrich 35 percent to 29 percent. Among college-educated voters, Romney holds a 35 percent to 28 percent lead. Among respondents with only some college education, Gingrich leads 32 percent to 26 percent.
The economy ranked as the issue of greatest concern to respondents, with 64 percent of them citing it. Just 10 percent cited social issues as their No. 1 worry. Among those who see the economy as the top issue, 40 percent back Romney.
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