Rick Santorum's surge continues, even in the up-for-grabs primary state of South Carolina where he is now in second place behind front-runner Mitt Romney, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is still in the lead, earning 27 percent support from likely GOP primary voters, up from 23 percent in early November. Santorum is at a close 24 percent of the vote. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is in third with 18 percent of the vote, followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 11 percent.
Bringing up the rear are Texas Governor Rick Perry with five percent percent and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman at 2 percent. Some 11 remain undecided.
In the first Rasmussen Reports survey of the South Carolina Republican Primary race in November, Georgia businessman Herman Cain came in first with 33 percent support, followed by Romney and Gingrich. Cain has since dropped out of the race.
The latest findings from South Carolina parallel the voting sentiments of Republicans nationally following the Iowa caucuses, with Romney out front with 29 percent support. Santorum, after his photo-finish with Romney in Tuesday’s caucuses, runs second at 21 percent, with Gingrich in third with 16 percent of the vote.
The January 21 primary in South Carolina is especially critical for Santorum who has largely written off next Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary and is counting on the conservative, evangelical vote in the southern state to build the momentum for his candidacy.
Things remain fluid in South Carolina, however, with nearly half the state’s primary voters 48 percent saying they still could change their minds. Just 41 percent are certain already of how they will vote. Those certain of their vote include 62 percent of Paul’s supporters, 51 percent of Perry’s backers, 50 percent of Romney voters. Just 43 percent of Santorum voters and 36 percent of Gingrich supporters are locked in at this point.
In 2008, during the final week leading up to the South Carolina primary, voters for less successful candidates peeled away from their first choice to vote for one of the two front-runners. In that race, it was the eventual nominee John McCain and the second place finisher Mike Huckabee.
It’s important to note, too, that 66% of all likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina, regardless of whom they want to win, think Romney will ultimately win the party’s presidential nomination.
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